Small, stocky diving duck 13” to 15” long with an average wingspan of 24”. Drakes have striking black-and-white plumage—a mostly white body with a black back and an iridescent black “facemask” above and in front of the eyes. Hens are uniformly brown-black except for an off-whit cheek patch.
Tidal rivers and inlets.
Buffleheads of the Atlantic Flyway typically breed in Quebec in eastern Canada and migrate to the Chesapeake and points south in autumn.
Mollusks such as small clams, crustaceans, aquatic plants.
Drakes squeak; hens make a faint quacking sound. Listen to a sample (Requires RealPlayer)
Despite its chunky physique, the bufflehead is a fast flier that takes flight with a sudden leap into the air and then skims the water’s surface. Bay birders may see whole flocks of buffleheads diving at once, perhaps with a lone “sentry” on watch for danger. Where food is plentiful, buffleheads have been observed making up to eighty dives in less than an hour.
The decoy pictured is from the collection of the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art and was photographed by Middleton Evans. Waterfowl sounds are courtesy of the Macaulay Lab of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.