Comprehensive Guide to selected species of:
Birds of the Boreal Forest « back to Guide
Bufflehead Bucephala albeola
Family: Ducks and Geese, Anatidae
Audio: Martyn Stewart, © Naturesound.org
An estimated 87% of the species' North American population breeds within the Boreal Forest.
Description 13-15" (33-38 cm). A small, chubby duck. Male largely white, with black back, black head with greenish and purplish gloss, and large white patch from behind eye to top and back of head. Female all dark, with single whitish patch on cheek. A fast flier, with a rapid wingbeat.
Habitat Breeds on wooded lakes and ponds; winters mainly on saltwater bays and estuaries.
Nesting 6-12 pale buff or ivory eggs in a mass of down placed in a woodpecker hole up to 20' (6 m) off the ground.
Voice Male has a squeaky whistle; female, a soft, hoarse quack.
Range Breeds in Alaska and in Canada east to western Quebec, and south in mountains to Washington and Montana. Winters along Atlantic to northern Florida and across southern United States, south to Mexico and Gulf Coast.
Discussion These beautiful ducks, smaller relatives of the goldeneyes, fly fast and usually close to the water but make no whistling sound in flight. They tend to travel in smaller flocks than goldeneyes and often feed closer to shore. While a flock is diving for food there is almost always at least one bird on the surface watching for danger.