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Buffleheads in Winter

Our smallest duck returns from the north!
© Thomas Dove View Large

Buffleheads have returned for the winter, down from the boreal forests of the north where they breed. These birds are monogamous and often return to the same wintering area. Buffleheads breed on small lakes and ponds in the boreal forest. In winter, the Bufflehead is most often found in coastal areas, in shallow bays and inlets. Be sure to watch the video of Buffleheads—two males and one female.

Full Transcript

Buffleheads in Winter
By Chris Peterson

This is BirdNote!

[Strong winds and waves of winter]

Picture yourself beside the ocean in winter. You’re bundled up and scanning the horizon where gathering dark clouds mark a rain squall on its way. The wind is brisk and big waves crash before you. [Crash of waves] You feel alone, and so it seems.

But just beyond the wave line, two Buffleheads, the smallest of diving ducks, pop to the surface like corks! The male is unmistakable in his striking black-and-white plumage. The female is brown, and she has an oval white patch below and behind her eye. They ride the waves briefly, then dive again in search of tiny shrimp and crustaceans. [Crash of waves]

Buffleheads are here for the winter, down from the boreal forests where they breed and then nest in trees. [Bufflehead landing in a small lake, and the call of a male.] They’re small enough to lay their eggs in the abandoned cavities made by flickers. They’re monogamous and often return to the same wintering area, so you may see this pair next winter. [Crash of waves]

But tonight, when you’re back in your warm house, they’ll sleep on the rough water. And ‘though some live past ten years, the average lifespan of a Bufflehead is less than three. How remarkable their ability to survive even one winter in what seems to us such an unforgiving environment!

It’s humbling, isn’t it? For BirdNote, I’m Mary McCann [Crash of waves]


Bufflehead landing on water provided by the Macaulay Library at Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, recorded by W.W.H. Gunn.
Calls of Bufflehead recorded by Martyn Stewart of
Waves Nature SFX Essentials #24 and wind #2 recorded by Gordon Hempton of
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2015 Tune In to   December 2013/2015   Narrator: Mary McCann

ID# 121306BUFF2KPLU   BUFF-02b

Sights & Sounds

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