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North Carolina Wildlife Species Information

Bufflehead - Bucephala albeola

Bufflehead Bucephala albeola


Identification Tips:

  • Length: 10 inches Wingspan: 24 inches
  • Very small compact diving duck
  • Very small dark gray bill
  • Immature female similar to adult female, but immature male has a larger white cheek patch

Adult male alternate:

  • Alternate plumage worn from fall through early summer
  • Dark glossy head
  • Large white patch on the head from behind the eye
  • White breast, belly and flanks
  • Dark back
  • Inner wing white and outer wing dark, visible in flight

Adult male basic:

  • Similar to adult female but with a larger white cheek patch

Adult female:

  • Dark brown head and body, breast and flanks paler
  • Oval white patch on face behind eye
  • White belly
  • White inner secondaries and otherwise dark wing, visible in flight

Similar species:

Female Bufflehead distinguished from female Harlequin Duck by white secondaries and single white patch behind the eye.


Length and wingspan from: Robbins, C.S., Bruun, B., Zim, H.S., (1966). Birds of North America. New York: Western Publishing Company, Inc.

Above information used courtesy of United States Geological Survey.

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