Bufflehead

Bucephala albeola
Range Map

The Bufflehead is a smallish, diving duck that breeds in central Canada and Alaska. Except for a few locations in coastal Pacific Northwest and Alaska, these ducks spend their winters in the USA and Mexico, though they’ve wandered across the Pacific Ocean to winter in Japan and Kamchatka, or east into Greenland or Europe. Like their closest relatives, the Goldeneyes, Buffleheads are tree cavity nesters, and their small size allows them to occupy cavities as small as those excavated by Northern Flickers, holes too small for their larger cousins to exploit. Unlike most ducks, Buffleheads pair-bond for many years, if not for life.

Most of my encounters with these lovely diminutive ducks have been in southern California, but I’ve also met them further north in California, in Oregon and southern Nevada.

Modern science considers the Bufflehead as monotypic (i.e. there are no subspecies).

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