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< >  Bucephala albeola - Bufflehead (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)
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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

Buffle-headed duck
Garrot albéole (French)
Porrón albeola (Spanish)
Pato cabeza clara (Spanish)
Clangula islandica

Names for newly-hatched

Duckling, downy.

Names for non-breeding males or other colour-phases


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Species Author

Debra Bourne

Major References

B1, B3, B6, B8, B19, B25, B26.

Aviculture references:
J23.13.w4, B7, B29, B30, B40, B94, B96, B97, B129
D1, D8

Other References

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TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques

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Aviculture Information


General information:
  • Seaducks are generally winter-hardy and sociable. They are preferably kept on a large area of clean, cold, deep water, at least some of which (preferably half the area) should be more than 60cm and preferably more than1m deep. As with other diving ducks, most species are relatively ungainly on land and ponds should have shallow sloping banks. Some cover along the pond edges will generally be appreciated. Preferred nesting sites vary greatly within this group, from open ground nesting to thick vegetation and tree holes.
  • Diets of grain, pellets fish and seafood may be used, also bread.  These ducks generally need a higher-protein diet than most waterfowl species and high-protein pelleted diets specifically designed for seaducks are now available, although supplementation with fish may still be important particularly for breeding. Feeding in troughs containing stones may avoid the development of overgrown bills. Provision of salt water may decrease the incidence of fungal and other infections.
  • Ducklings may be given high-protein starter crumbs and live food, and provided with access to deep water for swimming from an early age.

(B7, B29, B40, B94, B129, D1)

Species-specific information:

  • Clean, deep (1m plus), preferably running water is important, with natural food present to supplement the artificial diet if possible. Wheat, pellets (e.g. trout pellets and breeder pellets) and animal material, such as insectivorous food has been recommended previously in the absence of specialized diets.
  • These ducks have not been considered easy to breed, although they are bred regularly in some collections. A raised nest box should be provided and seclusion, with disturbance at the nest avoided. The preferred nest box is a hollowed out log, 2-3 feet (60-90cm) high, provided with a roof, nesting material and a ramp leading to a 3 inch (7.5cm) diameter entrance hole about 23cm from the top. The prepared log may be set on a pole over water, or on an island or on the bank near the water. Nest boxes should be available from as early as mid-February to allow for laying which may start in early March (J23.13.w4) or may not occur until April or May. Ducklings are considered delicate and may be difficult to raise; a single duckling should be provided with companions e.g. of a teal species.. Livefood should be provided to encourage feeding, and force-feeding (1ml every four hours) may be required initially.

(J23.13.w4, (J23.13.w8, B29, B30, B96, B97).

Aviornis UK Ringing Scheme recommended average ring size: H 8.0mm (D8).

Management Techniques

Stimulating Feeding of Downies (Waterfowl)
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External Appearance (Morphology)

Measurement & Weight

Length 13-16 inches, 33-40cm (B3, B1)
Adult weight General About 330-450g (B1).
Male Average about 450g, maximum 590g (B3); mean 15.8 ounces (B8)
Female Average about 330g, maximum 590g (B3); mean 11.4 ounces (B8).
Newly-hatched weight --
Growth rate --

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Adult Bill Male Blue-grey, darker at base (B3, B6, B8, B25, B26)
Variations (If present) Female: Dark grey (B3, B6, B8, B25, B26)
Eyes (Iris) Male Brown (B3, B6, B8, B25, B26).
Variations(If present) --
Juvenile Bill Dark grey (B3, B6, B25).
Eyes (Iris) Brown (B3, B6, B25).

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Adult Male Pink (B3, B6, B8, B25, B26)
Variations (If present) Female: dusky-pink (B3, B6, B25, B26)
Juvenile Dusky-pink (B3, B6, B25)

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Adult Male Head and upper neck glossy green/purple black with large white wedge from just behind and below eye on either side, extending across back of head. Neck and underparts white, upperparts black, rump and tail grey. Wing primaries, primary coverts and leading edge black, secondaries and their coverts white. (B3, B6, B8, B25, B26)
Variations (If present) Female:-Head dark brown, white long oval patch behind/below eye pointing to back of head, neck and underparts grey, shading paler on abdomen, tail grey-brown, upperparts dark grey. Wing dark grey, with secondaries white, some of greater coverts white tipped with black. (B3, B6, B8, B25, B26)

Eclipse:- similar to female but head blackish with larger white patch than female, and wing pattern remains (B3, B6, B25, B26)

Juvenile Similar to female, duller (B3, B6,B25, B26).

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Newly-hatched Characteristics

General: Upperparts and upper breast dark brown, with white spots on wings, rump and flanks; face below eyes, throat and underparts white(B6).
Bill: Dark grey (B6).
Feet: Dark grey (B6).

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Reproductive Season

Time of year Begins April to May.
No. of Clutches Sometimes re-nest (B3).

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Nest placement and structure

In treeholes, 1-15m above ground, near water, occasionally in holes in banks; with down lining (B1, B3, B6, B8, B25, B26).

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Egg clutches

No. of Eggs Average --
Range 6-11 (B8); 5-12 (B1).
Egg Description Cream or ivory-yellow to pale buff (B3, B6, B8); size: 52x37mm; weight: 37g (B3).

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29-31 days (B1, B8).

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50-55 days (B1, B8).

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Sexual Maturity

Males Two years old (B1).
Females Two years old (B1).

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Feeding Behaviour

Adults Mainly feed by diving (B1, B8).
Newly-hatched --

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Parental Behaviour

Nest-building Solitary nests preferred, but two holes in one tree may be used by different females (B3, B8)
Incubation By female, male deserting during incubation (B3, B8, B25, B26)
Newly-hatched Tended by female. Some brood-merging and taking in of stray ducklings: female with 34 ducklings reported. (B3, B8).

Deserted by female about fledging time, sometimes earlier (B8)

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Social Behaviour

Intra-specific Territorial, although larger lakes shared by more than one pair (B8). Males gather for moult. Smallish flocks (up to 50 birds) form in winter (B8).
Inter-specific Males may defend small lakes against other waterfowl species (B8).

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Sexual Behaviour

Seasonal pair bonds, pairs form in winter (B3, B25).

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Predation in Wild


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Activity Patterns

Very active, often rest on the water, also on boulders and partially-submerged branches (B8, B25).
Circadian --

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Natural Diet


Snails, insects and their larvae important in summer, with seeds of aquatic plants. Molluscs and crustaceans important at sea, also fish (B1, B3, B26).

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Range and Habitat

Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)


North America from central and southern Alaska eastward through central Canada to Hudson Bay and great Lakes, and southward to south British Columbia, northern Washington, north Montana, southern Canada, locally south in Californian mountains (B1, B19).

Migratory. Winter along Pacific coast from Aleutian Islands and Alaska to Mexico, across southern USA along Gulf coast and Atlantic coast north to New England and inland on open waters, also Greater Antilles (B1, B19).

Short moult-migration by males, to sites within breeding range (B3, B8, B25, B26).

Occasional and Accidental Reaches Greenland, north-east Siberia, Hawaii, Japan, north-west Europe (particularly Britain) (B1).


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Breeding: pools and shallow lakes in mixed woodland, also rivers. Winters on sheltered coasts, brackish and large freshwater lakes (B1, B3, B8, B19, B25, B26.

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Intraspecific variation


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Conservation Status

Wild Population -

Fairly common (B1, B8)

CITES listing --
Red-data book listing --
Threats Loss of suitable nest sites main threat (B1, B8).

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Captive Populations

Common in collections (B8).

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