Male Bufflehead, Mayberry Park. January 2016. Photo: K.Fitzgerald.

Male Bufflehead, Mayberry Park. January 2016. Photo: K.Fitzgerald.

Bucephala albeola
  • Very small diving duck, body 12-15 inches long.
  • Male has a large white patch on back of head. Forehead and neck appear black from far away, but are glossy green and purple from up close. Body is black on back, white below.
  • Female has brown head with white cheek patch. Body is dark brown on back, gray below.
Record Observations
Species Description

Buffleheads are tiny – roughly half the size of Mallards – and present in small numbers along the Truckee River during winter months. They are most common from November to April (see Ebird database).

Buffleheads spend most of their waking hours feeding, diving repeatedly beneath the surface to look for underwater insects and plant foods. It is rare to find a Bufflehead on land, especially during winter; they feed all day and into the night, and generally sleep on the water (Gauthier 2014).

Buffleheads are monogamous, and will remain with the same mate for multiple years. In spring, traveling at night, most migrate north toward Canada’s interior where they nest in tree holes excavated by the Northern Flicker. Some Buffleheads remain in the Sierra year-round (Gauthier 2014; Ebird 2016).

References & Links

Ebird Database. 2016. Bufflehead:

Gauthier, Gilles. 2014. Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online:

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