A Bufflehead, that is. These little birds we see beauties are the smallest diving ducks in North America. The name “bufflehead” comes from “buffalo-headed” due to the large-looking heads these ducks have. Pictured here is a female with a tasty morsel she snatched up on a dive.
These ducks are strikingly beautiful. As you can see from the photo, the female is dark brown on top with a small white cheek-patch and is lighter below. The male has a large white head patch with a black and white body. The black in the feathers refracts all sorts of colors from the birds surroundings. WOW!
The Bufflehead is a diver and unlike other diving ducks can take flight from water without having to run along the surface. Buffleheads typically eat aquatic insects, snails, crustaceans and aquatic plants. Buffleheads are usually seen in small groups. As the others feed, one will stand watch for potential danger.
I guess Buffleheads aren’t known to be especially camera shy but the only time I can get close enough for a good shot is when there are only one or two present. I wait for them to dive. Then I sneak up a little closer to where they were and stop. Up they pop, I stay still. They always look at me so I don’t move. These birds look at me out of one eye, turn around and look at me out of the other eye I guess to be sure they’re not seeing things. They eventually give up and dive again. I sneak a little closer and so it goes until I’m close enough. Usually they’ll let me have a shot or two and they’re off like a shot.
Buffleheads live by lakes, rivers and bays. Most breed in the northwestern part of North America. As winter nears, Buffleheads migrate to coastal water on the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific coasts as far south as parts of Mexico. The average number found in Texas, both on the coast and in the interior, has been recorded at 4,300. This is the largest winter count of Buffleheads of any state.