Bucephala albeola is commonly known as the Bufflehead. It is the smallest diving duck in North America. The name bufflehead or "buffalo head" refers to its bulbous head shape. This is most noticeable when a male puffs out his head feathers, increasing the size of its head.
|Female Bufflehead taken by M. Blevins Jan. 2011 Olympia, WA|
The Bufflehead can grow between 12.5 - 16 inches (32-40 cm) and weigh 0.6-1.2 lbs (270-550 g). The species is Dimorphic, which means the males, also called Drakes, are larger than females. Drakes have a glossy, greenish-black head with a large white cap behind the eyes. Their body is mainly white with a black back. Females have a brown head with a smaller white patch behind the eyes. Their body color is mainly brown with a light underside.
Diet and Feeding
Bufflehead like to forage underwater. They feed by diving to the cove bottom where they consume benthic invertebrates including crustaceans, gastropods, and bivalves. Sometimes they feed on fish eggs and aquatic plants. Like other diving ducks, the Bufflehead can swallow while underwater.
Reproduction and Life History
Bufflehead courtship, by males, is extremely animated. It involves chasing, head pumping and erecting a bushy crest to enlarge their head. Males chase other males away, but also chase after females. Females respond with vocalizations and a less animated head display telling her suitor to continue his courtship. Like most other seaducks, Bufflehead experience long term pair bonds. Breeding occurs in Alaska or Canada. Females prefer to nest in the cavities of trees. They are reluctant to leave the nest and usually do so in the evening. It’s not uncommon for a female to use the same nesting site more than once, if not driven out by predators. Mothers stay with ducklings until 7-8 weeks of age and if abandoned, it’s not uncommon for ducklings to be adopted by another brood.
In a study of tagged Buffleheads, the oldest recorded male was 15 yrs old, oldest female was 12 yrs old.
During the winter, Buffleheads spend the majority of their time on the water and tend to favor shallow water habitats. They winter in coastal waters on the east and west coasts of North America. They do not collect in huge flocks, usually less than 10. Bufflehead have a strong tendency to return to the same wintering area.
Bufflehead ducks are hunted for sport in US and Canada. Their breed makes up 2% of duck sport hunting. Ducks return to breeding ground year after year. With with local over harvesting devastates the population while clear-cut lumbering threatens forest habitat.
- ↑ “All About Birds” Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Copyright 2010. Retrieved 1/31/2011. http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Bufflehead/lifehistory
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 “Bufflehead Ducks” AvianWeb.com. Copyright 2010. Retrieved 1/31/2011. http://www.avianweb.com/buffleheadduck.html
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 McKinney, Richard A., McWilliams, Scott R. "A New Model to Estimate Daily Energy Expenditure for Wintering Waterfowl". The Wilson Bulletin, Vol. 117, No. 1 (2005) p.44-55.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 Roof, Jennifer. “Bucephala albeola”, Animal Diversity Web. Copyright 2008. Retrieved 1/31/2011 http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Bucephala_albeola.html
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Dye, Paul, “Bufflehead Ducks – Mighty Mights”. [Internet] Retrieve 1/31/2011. http://www.greatnorthern.net/~dye/Bufflehead_ducks.htm
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 Gauthier, Gilles. "Further Evidence of Long-term Pair Bonds in Ducks of the Genus Bucephala", The Auk, Vol. 104, No. 3 (July 1987), p. 521-522.