Bufflehead, is easily distinguished from other ducks. The male
has a white underside and a dark back that appears black, but
upon closer inspection, is actually a deep iridescent greenish-purple.
At the back of the black head is a wedge of white. This mark
distinguishes the Bufflehead from the larger goldeneyes, which
have white in front of their eyes. The smaller female is a drab,
brownish, dusty-black with white ear- and wing-patches.
habitat is small lakes and ponds in boreal forests with nearby
stands of poplar and aspen. In the winter, they are most often
found in coastal areas in shallow bays and inlets.
and monogamous during the breeding season, Buffleheads sometimes
keep the same mate, and often the same nest, for several years.
Females almost always return to their hatch-sites to breed. Territorial
disputes between females with young often end up with the winning
female going away with more or perhaps all of the young. Buffleheads
have numerous elaborate courtship displays that they perform
throughout the year, except during the post-breeding molt and
in the early fall.
nesting, Buffleheads eat mostly insect larvae and other invertebrates.
In winter, their diet shifts to crustaceans and mollusks. They
dive and swallow their prey under water.
nested historically in abandoned flicker holes, which are too
small for other cavity-nesting ducks. They now also nest in man-made
boxes. Nests are located within 25 yards of the water and from
2 to 42 feet above the ground. The female uses enough down to
cover the eggs but adds no other material. She lays a median
of 9 eggs, which she incubates alone. Once the young hatch, the
female continues to care for them, although they are able to
feed themselves almost immediately.
found in Washington in winter come from many western breeding
areas. The birds arrive in Washington in late October to early
November. Like many ducks, Buffleheads migrate at night.
are among the few species of ducks whose numbers have dramatically
increased since the mid-1950s when over-hunting was a significant
factor. Protection from and regulation of hunting have helped
these birds. Habitat degradation, on the other hand, has eliminated
nesting habitat. The tendency of females to return to the areas
where they were hatched makes it difficult to repopulate an area
once a population is gone. Populating a new area is similarly