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. The male is black and
white with a large white patch extending from the
eye to the back of the head. The female is dark
brown above, paler below and has a small white
cheek patch. The male is slightly larger than the
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.
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.
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.
Habitat and Distribution
Buffleheads live by lakes, rivers and bays. Most
breed in the northwestern part of North America.
As winter nears, Buffleheads migrate to coastal
water on the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific coasts as
far south as Mazatlan. The average number found
in Texas, both on the coast and in the interior,
has been recorded at 4,300. This is the largest
winter count of Buffleheads of any state.
Buffleheads travel to breeding grounds in Alaska
and western Canada in February, March and April.
They make this trek largely during the night
under the cover of darkness. Should severe
weather hit, they will take flight during the
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Creek Bird Supply