The Bufflehead

Bucephala albeola

Fast Facts

Common Name: Bufflehead

Scientific Name: Bucephala albeola

Size: Ranges from 13-16 inches long and weighs 9.5-19.5 ounces

Nesting: Average clutch size is 9 eggs incubated for about 30 days. Young leave the nest after 2 days and achieve first flight by 50 days.

Life Span: The average bufflehead lives less than 5 years. The oldest on record lived 18.7 years.

duck, bird, nature

A female bufflehead

Did you know?

  • The name “bufflehead” is derived from buffalo-head, for the male’s odd puffy head shape
  • This duck is awkward on land because its feet are set back, but it is a good swimmer and fast flier
  • Buffleheads do not tend to collect in large flocks, and due to their high metabolism, spend 50% of their feeding time underwater
  • One duck serves as a sentry, watching for predators, as others in the group dive in search of food

Habitat and Diet

Bufflehead breed in boreal forests and aspen parklands. They like to nest in tree cavities and in nest boxes. They use tree holes made by northern flickers and pileated woodpeckers. Buffleheads usually form a mating pair that stays together during the breeding season and sometimes for more than one year in a row. Females are also faithful to their natal and breeding areas, often reusing the same nest site year after year. These diving birds forage underwater. In freshwater habitats they eat primarily insects, and in saltwater they feed predominantly on crustaceans and mollusks.