Bufflehead Ducks

The Bufflehead Ducks are a familiar sight on the Vancouver Islands coastal waterways, you can sometimes see them in large rafts, it’s quite the sight to see and when they take off, it is done in unison.

Buffleheads are small black and white diving ducks with small gray bills. They have a white patch on the side of their round heads and have white patches on their wings that are visible during flight.

Buffleheads have dark brown eyes. Male and female buffleheads look very distinct with males having dark heads with a white cap behind their eyes, a black back, and white sides. Females look darker and duller by comparison with brown heads and bodies and with a smaller white patch behind their eyes. Bufflehead males also change their plumage during the mating season.

Buffleheads like to nest in tree cavities. They usually use tree holes made by northern flickers or pileated woodpeckers. The entrance of the holes used for nesting is usually around 7 cm in diameter. Nests are lined with downy feathers that come from the chest of the female Bufflehead. The female bufflehead uses the same nest site every year.

Bufflehead Ducks, Vancouver Island, BC
Bufflehead Ducks, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Bud

Male buffleheads often make a loud chattering noise or growl when courting. Buffleheads mate and breed for the first time during their second year. They form pairs in the winter and, unlike most ducks, usually, keep the same mate for years.

Bufflehead Ducks, Vancouver Island, BC
Bufflehead Ducks, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Bud Logan

Buffleheads forage underwater by diving in open shallow waters where the depth is usually less than 3 meters. They are omnivorous and feed mostly on aquatic invertebrates, insects, crustaceans, and plants. They also sometimes eat small fish and fish eggs. Buffleheads live in northern forests and are found primarily in Canada. They like wetlands at the edge of the coast and along rivers.  You can find them in marshes, meadows, and open waters. They prefer ponds and small lakes during the breeding season. As they are migrating, they use rivers and different types of water bodies as temporary resting and feeding habitats. They winter along the Pacific northwest coast.

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