One of the smallest ducks in North America

Buffleheads are a North American diving duck that got their name from the similar shape of the drake's head and that of the American Bison or "Buffalo."  The Bufflehead rivals the green wing teal as the smallest duck in North America. Buffleheads are closely related to Golden Eyes and Mergansers. As do Golden Eyes, Hooded Mergansers and Common Mergansers, Buffleheads nest in trees in the Boreal Forest of Canada. Where the Bufflehead has an advantage is it is small enough to nest in the abandoned nest of the Northern Flicker, a woodpecker. These woodpeckers create a hole in aspen and poplar trees to nest. When the woodpecker moves out, the Bufflehead hen moves in and will continue to come back to her same nesting site year after year.

Bufflehead sea duck
Four buffleheads from a sea duck hunt

The average clutch of a Bufflehead hen is about 9 chicks. Buffleheads have a high metabolic rate and are in constant motion feeding. Normally one member of the flock stays on the surface and stands look out as the others dive to feed on plants, insects, crustaceans, mollusks, and fish eggs. They have reason to be alarmed because there are a host of predators in search of them. While nesting foxes, weasels, and minks search them out as food. Also golden eye duck hens have been known to kill Bufflehead hens over nesting sites. Once out of the nest, Buffleheads have even more to be concerned about; Peregrine falcons, Snowy Owls, Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, Red Tailed hawks, Great Horned Owls, and Cooper Hawks all prey on Buffleheads.

Buffleheads are fun to hunt and some consider them good table fair calling them butter balls because of their high fat content. They are fast, erratic flying tiny ducks that decoy very well. With their population being very stable for the past decades Buffleheads are always a great addition to diver hunting here in New England.

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