Birds of Seabrook Island

COAST BIRDS
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ANECDOTES

  Bufflehead
 
 

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  Order Anseriformes - Waterfowl
   Family Anatidae - Ducks, Geese, and Swans
      Subfamily Anatinae - True Ducks
         Tribe Mergini - Sea Ducks
  Waterfowl vary in size - from teal to swans. They all have webbed feet and dense, waterproof plumage. Most nest on the ground and the nest is lined with down plucked by the female from her breast. Except for two small groups not found in North America, all belong to one (or two) families.
Ducks, Geese, and Swans are waterfowl with their bill finely serrated or grooved on the edge. Their tongue is fleshy. Their front toes are webbed. Males have a functional penis. They are strong fliers and many migrate long distances. 
True Ducks are sexually dimorphic. The female incubates and cares for the young - the male usually deserts early. Ducks undergo a simultaneous molt of their flight feathers and are flightless until the flight feathers of the alternate plumage regrow. Thus, males wear their nuptial plumage on the winter grounds where pair formation occurs in most species. 
Sea Ducks are active swimmers and foot-propelled divers.
Goldeneye and Bufflehead, Bucephala. These are diving ducks of cold waters. The males are patterned. They nest in tree cavities and winter on lakes and rivers and protected coastal bays. In foraging they dive and swim underwater propelled by their feet. They first breed when they are 2 years old.
     
     
  Bufflehead, Bucephala albeola
 
  Cornell     USGS     Wiki     ToL     EoL
        WINTER - Common / Common
            BAYS, ESTUARIES, PONDS, LAKES (salt or fresh)
MORE PICTURES
 
   Buffleheads are our smallest duck. They are short-billed with a relatively large head. In males, the back of the head is white. These white feathers may be erected to form a conspicuous crest used in displays. Females have an oval white patch on their cheek. Buffleheads are active feeders, constantly diving and reappearing ( "popcorn" ducks).
Bufflehead Bufflehead
   
Bufflehead - male. Monterey Bay Aquarium
Bufflehead - female. Monterey Bay Aquarium.
     
  RANGE: Buffleheads breed across southern Canada and are common on both coasts and are found in many areas of the US in winter (they are absent from the upper mid-west states and the Appalachian chain). They winter south to central Mexico.
  BREEDING: Monogamous. One brood. Females build a nest in a natural or woodpecker hole in mixed conifer-deciduous woodland near water. If cavities are scarce they may also burrow into a steep bank. They add down to the previous lining, if any. They lay 8-10 (6-12) eggs which they incubate 28-33 (29-31) days. Development is precocial. Young remain in the nest for a day or so before moving to water. Females care for the young. Two broods may join or individuals may join another brood. They are able to fly at 50-55 days.
   Buffleheads maintain a long-term pair bond and return to the same breeding and winter areas.
  DIET: They feed on aquatic insects and seeds in both fresh-water and brackish waters. They eat crustaceans, snails, and other mollusks in saltwater habitats. Fish are eaten in the winter. They forage underwater - all the birds may dive together in small flocks or a few individuals may remain on the surface as sentries.
  VOICE: Usually silent. The female has a hollow call similar to goldeneyes but weaker and softer.
  NOTES:
   Checklists -
      Seabrook. Kiawah - uncommon fall and spring, common winter. Edisto - winter.
      Coastal - common winter visitor. Hilton Head - common winter visitor. Cape Romain - common/absent/common/accidental.
         Huntington Beach
- uncommon October; common November - March; uncommon April.
      Caw Caw - uncommon fall and winter. ACE - occasional/absent/occasional/occasional.
   CBC: ACE 62, 31, 274, 65, 91, 21, 92, 28; Charleston 230, 761, 1267, 434, 520,138, 229, 256;
            St. Helena/Fripp x, x, x, x, x, x, 93, 250; Hilton Head 525, 674, 648, 789, 955, 594, 581, 480; Sun City/Okatie 99, 82, 58, 145, 30, 104, 76, 88;
            McClellanville 0, 113, 407, 134, nc, 188, 111, 256; Winyah Bay x, x, 87, 62, 25, 180, 187, 213;
               Litchfield/Pawley's 130, 66, 99, 123, 128, 124, 91, 141.
   P&G: Common winter visitor. Maximum 500 Charleston, 7 December 1976. Dates: 5 November - 24 April. Vagrant in August.
   Avendex: 2 reports.
   Potter: Fairly common to common winter resident from November through April or May.
  ●  On Seabrook, Buffleheads have been frequently seen in the lagoon behind North Beach (now obliterated) and the Kiawah River. They are also found on Palmetto Lake and in the new pond at Freshfields Village. I've not seen them in our estuaries. Common in winter (more localized than Hooded Mergansers?) although I've not seen them in the three winters before 2011-12.
   Note that the white crest of male Buffleheads and Hooded Mergansers might lead to confusion - however, the Bufflehead has a white body and the Hooded Merganser shows tawny flanks. The head shapes are also quite different and the merganser has a crest.
       
    Banner - Bufflehead - Lagoon, North Beach.
 
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