Buffleheads, Bucephala albeola
Buffleheads inhabit a wide range of aquatic habitats, including lakes, ponds, rivers, estuaries, and coastal bays. They breed in the northern regions of North America, including Alaska, Canada, and parts of the northern United States. During the non-breeding season, they migrate to wintering grounds in the southern United States, Mexico, and parts of Central America.
Adult male Buffleheads have striking plumage, with a large white patch on the head, a black back, and a white body. Females have a more muted coloration, with a dark brown overall plumage and a smaller white patch on the cheek. Both sexes have a compact body shape, a short neck, and a small bill.
Buffleheads are known for their agility and rapid flight. They can take off directly from the water, and their small size allows them to maneuver swiftly through trees and dense vegetation.
Buffleheads are skilled divers, capable of diving to considerable depths in search of prey. They primarily feed on aquatic invertebrates, including insects, crustaceans, mollusks, and small fish. They also consume small amounts of plant material, such as seeds and vegetation. Buffleheads dive underwater to capture their prey, using their agile swimming and diving abilities.
One notable behavior of Buffleheads is their unique courtship display. Males perform an elaborate courtship ritual involving head-throwing, head-pumping, and wing-flashing to attract females. They produce a variety of whistling and vocal calls during courtship and for communication with other ducks.
During the breeding season, Buffleheads nest in tree cavities. They often use old woodpecker holes or natural tree cavities as nesting sites. Sometimes, they may also use nest boxes provided by humans. The female lines the nest cavity with down feathers and other soft materials to create a cozy and insulated space for incubation.
The female Bufflehead typically lays a clutch of 8-10 white eggs. Incubation, which lasts for about 28-32 days, is primarily undertaken by the female. Once the eggs hatch, the precocial ducklings leave the nest and are led by the female to nearby water. The female provides guidance and protection, while the ducklings forage for small aquatic invertebrates and insects.
Bufflehead ducklings fledge within 60-70 days after hatching. The exact timing may vary depending on environmental conditions and food availability.
During the non-breeding season, they undertake migrations, moving to wintering grounds in the southern parts of their range. They often form small flocks during migration and winter, associating with other diving duck species. They can be found in a variety of aquatic habitats during winter, including coastal areas, estuaries, and sheltered bays.