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North American Shoveler

[ Canvasback ] [ Common Goldeneye ] [ Burrow's Goldeneye ]
[ Bufflehead ] [ Ferruginous ]   [ Smew ]
[ Greater Scaup ] [ Lesser Scaup ] [ Hooded Merganser ]
[ Rosy Billed Pochard ] [ Redhead Pochard ] [ Red Crested Pochard ]
[ Tufted ]



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 strikingly beautiful. 

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.


General Comments

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 danger.



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Bufflehead Drake

Bufflehead Drake

Bufflehead Hen

Bufflehead Pair

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