The Bufflehead is the smallest diving or sea duck in
North America. The name buffalo head or
"bufflehead" is a direct reference to the
duck's large-headed appearance. These ducks are
Male buffleheads have a large white patch across the
back of the head that extends from cheek to cheek,
forming a bushy crest. The remainder of the head is
blackish with an iridescent green and purple sheen.
The neck, scapulars, breast, belly, and sides are
white, and the back and rump are black. The upper wing
surface is blackish except for the white speculum
extending from the inner and middle secondaries across
to the outer lesser and marginal coverts. The bill is
light blue-gray and the legs and feet are fleshy pink.
Female buffleheads have a brownish head and neck,
except for an oval white patch that extends from below
the eye back towards the nape of the neck. The breast,
sides, and flanks are dark gray, the back is blackish,
the belly is whitish, and the tail is grayish brown.
The upper wing surface is blackish brown, except for
the inner and middle secondaries and inner greater
coverts, which are white, tipped with black. The bill
is dark gray and the legs and feet are grayish.
These ducks nest in tree cavities, especially old
flicker holes. The female returns every year to the
area of her birth and lays one egg each morning for
six to 11 days, some time between mid-April and May.
She alone incubates the eggs for 28 to 33 days. Female
buffleheads lay an average of 9 eggs.
Meanwhile, as the females are busy brooding the
hatchlings and coaxing them to the water, the males
are "summering" separately on Bufflehead
molting ground. The female and young finally are
reunited with the males once the hatchlings learn to
fly some seven to eight weeks after they hatch.
The Bufflehead is a diver and unlike other diving
ducks can take flight from water without having to run
along the surface. Buffleheads typically eat aquatic
insects, snails, crustaceans and aquatic plants.
Buffleheads usually are seen in small groups. As one
or two feed, the others will stand watch for potential
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