Common Name:Bufflehead





Species:Bucephala albeola



The Bufflehead belongs to the family Anatidae, and all species in this family share the same characteristics. For instance they all have webbed feet, flat broad bill for forging, and specialized feathers that prevent water absorption. Buffleheads is the smallest diving duck in North America. This species is sexually dichromatic, which means that the males have different coloration from the females. The males are mostly white with a black back and their head is big and puffy with a white patch. Additionally in flight the male shows a large white wing patch. The female has a brown back and a white belly. On the femaleís face, under the eye, there is a small white patch.

Photo: M. Noonan


These birds are found in forests with fresh water ponds or lakes during breeding season. Their wintering grounds are concentrated near shorelines of oceans. Buffleheads are located throughout most of North America during the nonbreeding season. Their diet consists of insects, crustaceans, mollusks, and sometimes seeds.

Photo: M. Noonan



Buffleheads are not social and spend most of their time alone. When forging, they dive for their food and eat it under water. Buffleheads breed in Canada; their wintering grounds are in North America. Buffleheads are cavity nesters which means they will nest in tree holes and because of their small size they are able to use the smaller holes made by Northern Flickers. They form monogamous pair bonds for many years. The female will lay 8-10 ivory colored eggs and will incubate them for 28-33 days. The young are born precocial which means they are mobile, downy, able to find parents and food. The young will leave their mother 50-55 days after they hatch.




Buffleheads are only found in the winter in ponds, lakes or rivers. They can mostly be seen on the Niagara River and on both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario during migration, or in smaller bodies of water such as ponds at Tifft Nature Preserve or the marshes at Iroquois NWR.


Photo: M. Noonan

Birds of Western New York is brought to you by the Institute for the Study of Human-Animal Relations at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.