My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Bufflehead, Bucephala albeola

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Bufflehead, Bucephala albeola

The Bufflehead is a small American sea duck of the genus Bucephala, the goldeneyes.

The Bufflehead ranges from 32–40 cm long (12.5–16 inches) and 270–550 g (0.6–1.2 lbs), with the drakes larger than the females. Averaging 35.5 cm (14 in) and 370 g (13 oz), it rivals the Green-winged Teal as the smallest American duck.

Adult males are striking black and white, with iridescent green and purple heads with a large white patch behind the eye. Females are grey-toned with a smaller white patch behind the eye and a light underside.

The name Bufflehead is a combination of buffalo and head, referring to the oddly bulbous head shape of the species. This is most noticeable when the male puffs out the feathers on the head, thus greatly increasing the apparent size of the head.

Buffleheads have evolved their small size in order to fit the nesting cavity of their “metabiotic” host, a woodpecker, the Northern Flicker. Due to their small size, they are highly active, undertaking dives almost continuously sustained by their high metabolism. They do not tend to collect in large flocks; groups are usually limited to small numbers. One duck will serve as a sentry, watching for predators as the others in the group dive in search of food.

Buffleheads are monogamous, and the females return to the same breeding site, year after year. They nest in cavities in trees, primarily aspens or poplars, using mostly old Flicker nests, close to water.

These diving birds forage underwater. They prefer water depths of 1.2–4.5 m (4 to 15 ft). In freshwater habitats they eat primarilyinsects, and in saltwater they feed predominantly on crustaceans and mollusks. Aquatic plants and fish eggs can often become locally important food items as well.

On to my photos:

Male and female bufflehead ducks

Male and female bufflehead ducks

Male and female bufflehead ducks

Male and female bufflehead ducks

Male bufflehead duck

Male bufflehead duck

Male and female bufflehead ducks

Male and female bufflehead ducks

Male and female bufflehead ducks

Male and female bufflehead ducks

Male and female bufflehead ducks

Male and female bufflehead ducks

Male bufflehead

Male bufflehead

Male bufflehead

Male bufflehead

This is number 80 in my photo life list, only 270 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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8 responses

  1. I wonder who named this one, and what “Buffel” means.

    April 10, 2013 at 6:28 am

    • The name Bufflehead is a combination of buffalo and head, referring to the oddly bulbous head shape of the species. This is most noticeable when the male puffs out the feathers on the head, thus greatly increasing the apparent size of the head.

      April 10, 2013 at 9:47 am

      • Why didn’t I see that when i read your post this morning, I wonder. Probably half asleep. But thanks for the re-do.

        April 10, 2013 at 7:28 pm

      • More coffee! That’s my excuse on many mornings.

        April 10, 2013 at 10:22 pm

  2. I learn something everyday when visiting your posts.

    April 10, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    • Thanks, I am as well.

      April 10, 2013 at 10:21 pm

  3. These are really tough ones to capture. They are so shy. You did wonderful getting them on film. thanks for sharing these.

    April 12, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    • Thanks, I was two feet away from a much better shot, but they saw the brush moving as I was stalking them, and were already swimming away from me when I got in the clear to start shooting.

      April 13, 2013 at 2:00 am