Bufflehead

Scientific name: Bucephala albeola

Characteristics: A small diving duck that has a large head, steep forehead and short bill. Males have a white body, black back, and glossy green and purplish head with a large white patch behind the eye that wraps around the back of the head. Females are duller below and have a white cheek patch. In flight, the males’ large white wing patches are visible.

Breeding: Nests in tree cavities, often abandoned northern flicker holes, or in nest boxes within 650 feet of water. On average lays nine to 11 eggs. Hatchlings stay in nest 24-36 hours before following female to water.

Habitat: Widespread across much of North America. Found on small ponds, lakes, rivers and estuaries. Local breeder and common migrant in Central Oregon; winters as far south as central Mexico.

Food: Dives underwater for seeds, insects, aquatic invertebrates, mollusks, crustaceans and small fish.

Bird facts: Genus name is from a Greek word meaning “ox-headed” or “buffalo-headed.” The male’s head appears more bulbous when he puffs out his head feathers during breeding displays. Buffleheads fly in a direct course, often low over water, with rapid wing beats. Birds fatten up in the fall before migration, earning them the nickname “butterball” by waterfowl hunters.

Current viewing: Deschutes River in Bend’s Old Mill District or Drake Park, and Hatfield Lake.

— Damian Fagan is a birder, writer and past President of the East Cascades Audubon Society. He can be reached at damian.fagan@hotmail.com.

Sources: Oregon Department of Wildlife Resources and The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds by John Terres