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Scientific Name:

Bucephala albeola




Ponds, rivers and salt bays through the winter, small lakes in forests during nesting season


Throughout North America during the winter, but prefer the northern areas (Canada and Alaska) for nesting


Least Concern (IUCN Red List)

This species is


to the Truckee Meadows.


Bufflehead ducks are the smallest of the diving ducks in North America. They can reach up to 15.8 inches in length and up to 1.4 pounds in weight. The head of a bufflehead is relatively large compared to the rest of his compact body, in fact the name “Bufflehead” comes from “buffalo-head” referring to the large, puffy head of the male. Adult male buffleheads have a big, dark iridescent green and purple head with a large white patch; his body is white and his back is black. Female and immature buffleheads are gray, white and brownish in color with a smaller white patch on their cheek. Buffleheads nest in trees at least ten feet off the ground preferring the old nest holes of Northern Flickers, but they will also nest in other small holes or small nesting boxes. One to two days after the clutch of 4-12 eggs hatch (after about a month) the mother Bufflehead leads the chicks to water. Buffleheads are diving ducks, and will dive, and eat underwater. Their diet varies depending on the season and habitat, ranging from aquatic invertebrates to insects, plant seeds, and fish eggs. Like many waterfowl, Buffleheads need a running start on the water to take flight, but due to their small size, they need a shorter distance.

Fast Facts:

  • Fossils of buffleheads from 500,000 years ago (Pleistocene period) have been found in California, Alaska, Washington, Florida, Texas, Illinois and Kansas.

  • Buffleheads are monogamous, often staying with a selected mate for several years, monogamy is not a common behavior pattern among most ducks.



Regina Hockett (research & content)

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Last Updated:

March 27, 2024 at 1:48:22 AM

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