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What is a Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)

The Bufflehead, a small and charismatic diving duck, is a unique sight in North America’s water bodies. Known for its bold black and white plumage and buoyant diving style, this bird adds vibrancy to the aquatic habitats it frequents.

Bufflehead Overview

This species is renowned for its distinctive appearance and energetic behavior. The Bufflehead is not just a beautiful bird; it’s an important part of the ecosystem, contributing to the health of aquatic environments.


  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Anseriformes
  • Family: Anatidae
  • Genus: Bucephala
  • Species: B. albeola
What is a Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)
Male Bufflehead duck (Bucephala albeola) swimming in the shore waters of Sidney BC

Size and Body Description

Buffleheads are among the smallest North American ducks, typically measuring around 14-17 inches in length. They have a large, rounded head and a short neck. Males have a striking black and white pattern with iridescent green and purple on the head, while females are more subdued with brownish plumage.


14 to 17 inches (35 to 43 cm) in length.


Their diet consists mostly of aquatic invertebrates and small fish, which they catch by diving underwater.


Buffleheads nest in tree cavities, often those made by woodpeckers. Females lay 6-11 eggs and incubate them alone. As birds, they do not engage in pollination.


They breed in Alaska and Canada and winter along the coasts of the United States and Mexico. Some also winter inland near open waters.

Where Found

Buffleheads are typically found in small ponds, lakes, and sheltered coastal waters. They prefer areas with clear water for foraging.

How Long Do Bufflehead Live

In the wild, Buffleheads can live up to 18 years, though the average lifespan is shorter.


While not currently endangered, Buffleheads rely on healthy aquatic ecosystems. Their populations can be affected by pollution and habitat loss.

Additional Photos

What is a Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)
Male Bufflehead duck (Bucephala albeola) swimming in the shore waters of Sidney BC

The Bufflehead, with its playful dives and striking appearance, is a reminder of the beauty and complexity of aquatic ecosystems. Protecting these ducks ensures the preservation of the vibrant waterways they call home.

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