Monday, November 9, 2009

At the pond... Bufflehead

BuffleheadBufflehead, Hillsboro, Oregon on 6 December 2008 by Greg Gillson.


One of the common wintering ducks of deeper ponds and lakes throughout the Pacific NW is the diminutive Bufflehead.

They actually nest in mountain lakes in our area, especially in British Columbia and northern Washington, but also in isolated locations in Idaho and in a very few places the Cascades of Oregon and northern California.

Rather than building a nest on the ground as most other ducks, Buffleheads nest almost exclusively in old flicker nest holes that overlook a lake. In the woodpecker excavation they lay from 4-17 eggs. Can you imagine how crowded the nest must be with 17 chicks stuffed in a woodpecker hole with mom?

Buffleheads eat primarly aquatic insects, crawdads, various clams, and some seeds.

They arrive on lower elevation ponds and lakes in October and November and spend the winter on unfrozen lakes, bays, and larger rivers. In March and April they migrate back to their nesting grounds.

The photo above shows a typical male and female. The male is white below, blackish above. The black head has a large white wedge on the hind crown. The black feathers of the head of male Bufflehead show an iridescent sheen of purple and green in strong sunlight. The bill is pale blush-gray. The female is pale gray below with a whitish belly, dark gray-brown above, and there is a white patch on the cheek of the dark head. The bill is dark grayish. Both sexes have a white wing patch on the inner wing. The female has a small white wing patch on the inner trailing edge, the male has a much larger white patch across the entire inner wing.