Common Name

Scientific Name

Photo by Robert T. Maytum
Photo Courtesy of Robert T. Maytum

The bufflehead, Bucephala albeola, is a small duck with a small bill and a large puffy head. It breeds along wooded ponds and small lakes in southeastern Alaska, Canada, and the northwestern United States. In the winter, it can be found in sheltered bays, lakes, and rivers along the entire western and eastern coasts of North America, on the Great Plains, and in the southern United States southward to central Mexico. It is a fairly common spring and fall migrant in Utah, and it is also a rare summer and winter non-breeding resident. Buffleheads utilize freshwater and saltwater habitats, and their diets vary accordingly. In freshwater, they eat mostly aquatic insects and the seeds of vegetation. In saltwater, they eat mostly crustaceans, in addition to snails, fishes, and vegetation. These ducks float along the surface of the water, then dive underwater and swim to the food item. Unlike other diving ducks, the bufflehead does not need to run along the water's surface in order to take off.

A pair forms a long-term bond and revisits the same wintering and breeding grounds each year. The pair will choose a nest cavity in a tree on, or near to, the shore. Eight to ten eggs are incubated by the female, and the eggs hatch after a period of about one month. The mother is solely responsible for tending to the young. The hatchlings only stay in the nest for about two days, at which time they begin following their parents in search of their own food. The young are able to fly when they are about two months old.


  • Biological and Conservation Database. 2000. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, The Nature Conservancy, and the Association for Biodiversity Information.

  • Robbins, C. S., Bruun, B. and H. S. Zim. 1966. Birds of North America. Golden Press, New York.

  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birderís handbook[:] a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon & Schuster, New York. xxx + 785 pp.