I Love Buffleheads!

by Larry Jordan on December 5, 2011

Bufflehead Pair (Bucephala albeola) photos by Larry Jordan

Why do I love Buffleheads (Bucephala albeola)? Just saying their name is enjoyable. BUFFLEHEAD. Go ahead, say it out loud BUFF-L-HEAD. 😀 (Click on photos for full sized images).

Most people, I guess, think they’re just another black and white bird. I mean, if you look at the photograph above, you will see the lovely female Bufflehead in the foreground with her mate behind her looking rather dapper. Here’s a better shot of a female.

But if you get the right light on the drake, he can show you some real color!

Yeah, that’s what I’m talkin’ about! This ain’t no run-of-the-mill black and white duck! Although you can see why folks think he is. It all depends on the light.

Another reason I love these ducks is that they are a blast to watch. The way they forage in groups…

they take a little forward and upward leap before plunging into the water, then following their dive, bob up to the surface like so many corks.

The Bufflehead (I love saying that) is North America’s smallest diving duck, but don’t let their size fool you. They are aggressive little ducks.

Take a look at this video showing some of their courtship displays.

Buffleheads are almost exclusively monogamous, keeping the same mate for several years. They are also cavity nesters, breeding primarily in the Boreal forests of Canada and a few other places in the U.S. in cavities created by the Northern Flicker1.

That blue spot in northern California is Lassen Volcanic National Park where I have seen the female Bufflehead searching for nest sites.

So what’s not to love about these little bundles of energy? Nothing!

Here’s another look at the drake as he comes up from one of those dips.

If you want to see more cool birds from all over the world, check out Dave Springman’s World Bird Wednesday and submit your own bird photos!

References: 1Birds of North America Online

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicole December 5, 2011 at 11:06 pm

That’s one cool looking little birdie, Larry!
I mean, I love birds in all forms and colours anyway, but you are right, the rainbow colours on the male DO make him a little special at second glance 🙂


TexWisGirl December 6, 2011 at 6:45 am

fast and adorable little buggers! i’d love to see them in action!


Martha Z December 6, 2011 at 8:39 am

I like these little guys, too, but I haven’t yet gotten great shots like you have here. Where I see them they are usually back-lit so there is no highlight in the eye and it is lost in the black feathers. None of that nice iridescent color, either. You have me motivated, now that the fog and low clouds have left the valley I should go back to the pond and try again.


nature rambles December 6, 2011 at 9:19 am

I’ve never heard of them. But wow, with a name like that I’ll always remember them. Cute little birds! Love the colours on the drake!


Andrew December 6, 2011 at 9:47 am

A new bird for me.. and it’s a beautiful little duck… many thanks for the information.


ramblingwoods December 6, 2011 at 9:57 am

I have never seen one, but I enjoyed both videos and the photos..I love watching courtship displays and I love waterfowl of all kinds..I wonder if they would nest in a wood duck box if they found one or would that be too small…


Pat December 6, 2011 at 10:34 am

Lovely ducks are the Buffleheads!


Mick December 6, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Beautiful birds, great photos, and a perfect example of why it’s so important to get the right light on the birds.


Mia McPherson December 6, 2011 at 1:10 pm

I love how your images show the gorgeous iridescence thes ducks have, well done Larry!


Arija December 6, 2011 at 2:07 pm

OK, you got me. Saying the name really does feel great. The diving video reminds me of Adeli penguins, you are so right, they are fun to watch.
I wonder why that one drake in the courtship video kept being so aggressive to the other since there were enough girls to go around, or was that just a show-off boy thing?


Boom & Gary December 6, 2011 at 2:07 pm

They’re beauties and are now resident in the area in which I live. Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.


eileen December 6, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Wonderful shots of the Buffleheads. They are pretty and wow your photos are awesome. Great lighting!


springman December 6, 2011 at 8:45 pm

Buffelhead! Fascinating article Larry. Your videos add so much to the experience. It’s like being there!
Cheers to you sir!


Stewart M - Australia December 7, 2011 at 1:39 am

Hi there – I can see why you like them – and why you like saying their name!

What great colours.



heyBJK December 7, 2011 at 6:48 am

Beautiful colors in those Buffleheads!


Kat December 7, 2011 at 12:50 pm

We get buffleheads here in the winter. I was not aware that they had so much color. I’ve usually seen them from quite a distance. Thanks for sharing this!


John December 7, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Buffleheads too are one of my favorites but I never considered saying the name may be part of the reason. You’re right. I was unaware of the color present in the males. Thank you for pointing that out.


Liz December 11, 2011 at 5:32 am

Great shots of a lovely duck!! Very informative as always.


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