The Bufflehead is the smallest and one of the scarcest ducks in North America. They are noticeably decorated in black and white. The males have an average weight of 450g while the females are slightly smaller with an average weight of 340g. During migration they are as much as 115g heavier due to their additional stored fat. Adult males are black above and white below and have bright pink feet. The ducks have a white 'shawl' around the back of the head and a white band that extends from back to front across the wings. Young males and females are drab with a sooty appearance and appear more brown than black with the white areas of the male being dull and smaller in size in the female.
Buffleheads are migratory birds frequenting shallow, protected waters of coves, river mouths, and lagoons and prefer waters with a muddy or a gravelly bottom. They are rarely found in exposed shores in any season. They breed in the wooded areas of small ponds and do not nest near rivers and larger lakes since these are occupied by the Northern Pike, a large fish that often feeds on small ducklings. During winter, they are found on the east and west coasts of North America and the southern United States.
Buffleheads dive to pick and feed on arthropods such as insect larvae and small crustaceans, such as shrimps, crabs and amphipods. They can also be found feeding in shallow waters where they seek out seeds of aquatic plants.
The meat of the Bufflehead has a strong taste especially when have they been feeding in the sea.
Buffleheads are not very sociable ducks and forming groups of only10 or fewer birds. They are monogamous animals. Rapid, jerky movements with frequently head-bobbing in order to attract the female characterize the drake's courtship display. The most striking display is a short flight over the female in which the male flutters its wings below the level of its body, keeping the head and tail lowered, finally landing in a 'water-skiing' posture that displays the feet as well as the plumage. The upwards stretch with wing flapping, common to most ducks and some other water birds, terminates most bouts of displaying. Females respond only to the displays from adult males. They use old nests found in small cavities of trees for laying their eggs. This ensures safety from predators such as weasels and minks. The female lays 6 to 11 eggs and incubates them for 30 days. A day after hatching, the brood leaps from the nest cavity and fledge at 50 to 55 days of age. The female takes care of the ducklings carefully brooding them for a month before she leaves them. They are also predated on by Peregrine Falcon, Snowy Owl, Bald Eagle and Cooper's Hawk. Buffleheads are usually silent and females only produce a “grrk” call when alarmed near the nest or brood.
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