Bufflehead Youngsters

Recently I saw another mother with her offspring at Lassen Volcanic National Park. This bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) female and seven youngsters were swimming in Manzanita Lake.

Buffleheads are mid-range migratory waterfowl. Upon first glance at a range map, it would appear that buffleheads do not summer or breed here in Northeastern California. However, there is a small area surrounding us where buffleheads are year-round residents. How fortunate we are to have this pretty little bird as a permanent dweller.

As mentioned in a previous post about buffleheads, a monogamous pair chooses an abandoned tree cavity, preferably that of a northern flicker (Colaptes auratus), in which to build their nest. Most often the nest is built in an aspen or poplar, or in California the bufflehead will place its nest in a pine. A small lake or pond must be in the vicinity of the nest. Buffleheads are becoming urbanized and will also utilize nest boxes.

An average of ten cream to buff colored eggs are laid in the nest, which is lined with down from the mother’s breast. After 28 to 33 days the eggs hatch. About a day after the final egg hatches, the entire duckling brood leaps to the ground and heads toward the nearby body of water. After 50 to 55 days the young birds fledge and leave the protective care of their mother to set out on their own.

Although the female accompanied her youngsters on Manzanita Lake, there were three young buffleheads on Lily Pond who appeared to be alone. Perhaps their mother already left those buffleheads to their own devices. All the young ducks were diving and feeding.

I thought the picture of the little duck shaking off after emerging from a dive was cute so included it.

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4 Responses to Bufflehead Youngsters

  1. Rockie says:

    I love the pic of the little one shaking off as well…..so cute.

  2. Mike Powell says:

    Nothing is as cute as a photo of babies, and your baby ducks are absolutely adorable. I’ve never seen a bufflehead, so these are especially nice.

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