Waterfowl Identification

The Bufflehead, Bucephala albeola, is one of the smallest of the sea duck group. The drake has a black head with a green and purplish sheen and a blue gray bill. Behind the eye is a large white patch stretching around the head. The back is black and the breast, sides and belly are white. The hen is brown with a white patch on the cheek and a gray bill. The hen's underside is light brown.
Image comparing drake and hen/UISFWS Image comparing drake and hen/UISFWS

Stragglers migrate south in mid-fall, but the largest numbers move just ahead of freezeup. Most flocks in feeding areas are small—5 or 6 birds, with more hens and immatures than adult drakes.

Very small size, bold black and white color pattern, and low, swift flight are field marks. Unlike most divers, they can fly straight up from a watery takeoff. Largest concentrations are on both seacoasts and along the Gulf of Mexico. Inland, they will remain as far north as open water permits.

Length: 14 1/2"
Weight: 1 lbs.

Image comparing fulvous and Black-bellied whistling ducks wings/USFWS


 Distribution Map

Similar Species

In Flight
In flight illustration/USFWS In flight illustration/USFWS In flight illustration/USFWS

Usually silent. Drakes squeak and have a guttural note; hens quack weakly.

Last Updated: November 14, 2018