Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)
The Bufflehead is the smallest duck in North America. Male Buffleheads are small ducks with short dark grey bills, black backs, rumps, tails and wings, white underside, with thick vertical white stripes going across the wings, and a thick white patch going around the purple-green iridescent head. Female Buffleheads are dark grey-brown, and have white cheek patches.
The preferred feeding ground for the Bufflehead is in shallow, open bodies of water, sometimes over submerged mudflats. They dive for, and consume their food underwater. Buffleheads feed on small crustaceans, mollusks, fish eggs, insect larvae and invertebrates such as brine shrimp. In fall and winter, Buffleheads substitute these food items for plant materials, such as pondweed and bullrush seeds.
Buffleheads build their nests in unused northern flicker nesting cavities, which limits their breeding range to aspen woodland habitat, and boreal forests in Alaska and Canada. During winter, Buffleheads stay closer to the coast. The wintering range of Buffleheads consists of most of the US, excluding some of the midwest, northeast, and the Carolinas.
By Sarah Lefoley, Conservation Technician, Houston Audubon
Photos by Greg Lavaty