Important Notice:

Flyways.us will be shutting down on January 2, 2019. However, most of the content found here will now be available on the the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Migratory Bird Program website.

Bucephala albeola

The Bufflehead 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.

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

illustration of bufflehead hen and eclipse drake

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.

illustration of bufflehead wings

illustration of bufflehead drake

Largest concentrations are on both seacoasts and along the Gulf of Mexico. Inland, they will remain as far north as open water permits.

illustration of typical bufflehead flock pattern

illustration of bufflehead in flightside view illustration of bufflehead in flight

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