Bucephala Albeola – Bufflehead

Bucephala Albeola - Bufflehead found in the US

The bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) is a small sea duck belonging to the goldeneyes genus Bucephala. Carl Linnaeus first described this species as Anas albeola in his seminal 1758 tenth edition of Systema Naturae. The genus name is derived from the ancient Greek boukephalos, meaning “bullheaded,” from bous, “bull,” and kephale, “head,” referring to the species’ peculiarly bulbous head shape.

Quick Overview: Bucephala Albeola – Bufflehead
Body size: Around 13-16 in (33-41 cm) and a weight of 600 g (21.16 oz)
Main colors: White, Black, Green-Black, Purple-Black
Range: Throughout the United States
Migratory Bird: Yes
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: January, February, December
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Bufflehead Description

The majority of this little diving duck is white, with a glossy green-black to purple-black head and back. There is a huge white patch behind the eye on the head. In flying, the wings are dark with noticeable white spots.

Bucephala Albeola - Bufflehead found in the US
Bucephala Albeola – Bufflehead. Photo by: Don Owens

Size

These birds have a length of 13-16 in (33-41 cm) and a weight of 600 g (21.16 oz). Their wings could range from 20-24 in (51-61 cm).

Feeding

Variable according to season and habitat. In the summer and on freshwater, it primarily feeds on aquatic insects; in the ocean, it primarily feeds on crustaceans. Additionally, it consumes a large number of mollusks (particularly snails) throughout the winter and minor amounts of plant material during the fall.

Habitat

Around ponds and small lakes in relatively open mixed coniferous and deciduous forest, as well as burned areas and aspen groves; less frequently in the pure coniferous forest near rivers or larger lakes. In winter, they congregate in protected bays and estuaries, as well as on inland lakes, ponds, and slow-moving rivers.

Behavior

These diving birds forage beneath the surface. They like water depths between 1.2 and 4.5 meters (3.9 and 14.8 feet). They eat large insects in freshwater habitats and crustaceans and mollusks in saltwater settings. Aquatic plants and fish eggs frequently become major food sources on a local level as well.

Bucephala Albeola Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Anseriformes
  • Family: Anatidae
  • Genus: Bucephala
  • Species: Bucephala albeola

Best time of the year to see

The best time to see these birds in the United States is during the winter season (December to February).

Distribution of the Bufflehead in the USA

Breeds throughout Alaska and throughout Canada, from eastern Quebec to western Washington, California, and Montana. Winters along the Atlantic coast from northern Florida to the southern United States, and then south to Mexico and the Gulf coast.

The Bufflehead can be found in the following states in the United States – Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Bucephala Albeola – Bufflehead

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