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Bufflehead Ducks of North Florida | Williamson Outfitters

Bufflehead Ducks of North Florida | Williamson Outfitters

Chris Williamson |

About the Bufflehead

Flock of buffleheads flying in Apalachee Bay, FL


Buffleheads breed from southern Alaska through the forested areas of western Canada, central Ontario and eastern Quebec. Ninety percent of the population is believed to breed from Manitoba westward. Buffleheads are cavity-nesting ducks and prefer to nest near lakes and deep ponds with associated temperate woodlands. Female buffleheads lay an average of 9 eggs.

Latin: Bucephala albeola

Average length: M 15", F 13"

Average weight: M 1.1 lbs., F 0.7 lbs.


Male buffleheads have a large white patch across the back of the head that extends from cheek to cheek, forming a bushy crest. The remainder of the head is blackish with an iridescent green and purple sheen. The neck, scapulars, breast, belly and sides are white, and the back and rump are black. The upper wing surface is blackish except for the white speculum extending from the inner and middle secondaries across to the outer lesser and marginal coverts. The bill is light blue-gray and the legs and feet are fleshy pink. Female buffleheads have a brownish head and neck, except for an oval white patch that extends from below the eye back towards the nape of the neck. The breast, sides and flanks are dark gray, the back is blackish, the belly is whitish and the tail is grayish-brown. The upper wing surface is blackish-brown, except for the inner and middle secondaries and inner greater coverts, which are white, tipped with black. The bill is dark gray and the legs and feet are grayish.

Map of bufflehead migration


In 1992, the continent-wide breeding population was estimated at 1,390,000 birds.

Migrating and Wintering

Buffleheads are believed to congregate on large lakes or in major river systems until freeze-up in the fall, or immediately after thaw in the spring. Buffleheads from eastern Alberta migrate to the eastern United States and the Gulf Coast of Mexico, and birds from western Canada migrate south along the Pacific Flyway. They concentrate along the coasts during the winter, with no particular area wintering the majority of the population, and they occur from the Aleutian Islands to Mazatlan, Newfoundland to southern Florida and along the Gulf of Mexico.

Did you know?

  • The Bufflehead is the smallest diving or sea duck in North America.
  • The name buffalo head or "bufflehead" is a direct reference to the duck's large-headed appearance.
  • These beautiful ducks, fly fast with a rapid wing beat and usually close to the water but make no whistling sound in flight.
  • The Bufflehead is a diver and unlike other diving ducks can take flight from water without having to run along the surface.

[information courtesy of Ducks Unlimited &]