South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Bucephala albeola

Length: 14 to 16 inches Wingspan: 20 to 24 inches Seasonality: Migrant
ID Keys: Large white patch on back of head, black back and remainder of head, white body

Bufflehead - Bucephala albeolaOne of the smallest ducks found in the state, the Bufflehead can be distinguished by the male's large white patch on the back of its otherwise black head.  Its small size allows it to use nest cavities of Flickers and other similarly sized cavities, giving it an ample supply of nesting locations. 

Habitat: Prefers small ponds and lakes with surrounding woodland for breeding.  Winters on small ponds, lakes, and rivers inland, also in shallow bays and estuaries along the coasts.

Diet: Primarily insects and insect larvae in the summer.  Primarily crustaceans and mollusks in the winter.  Also will occasionally eat plant material.

Behavior: Nearly always feeds by submerging and obtaining food underwater.  Buffleheads are not as gregarious as many ducks, and are often found in pairs or small flocks.

Nesting: June and July

Breeding Map: Breeding Bird Survey map

Song: Squeaky whistling and low grumbling.

Migration: Summers primarily in Canada and Alaska.  Winters along North American coasts, throughout much of the southern half of the U.S., and points south.

Similar Species: Hooded Merganser

Birdhouses: Will use appropriately sized nest boxes near water.

Conservation Status: Generally stable throughout its range.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Bufflehead

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Bufflehead"

3) Bufflehead

Photo Information: December 18th, 2008 - San Francisco, California - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Bufflehead photos.


Click on the range map for a higher-resolution view
Bufflehead - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common migrant in the eastern part of the state, less common in the west.  Uncommon in winter.