Bird Quiz: Bufflehead

Bird Quiz: Bufflehead

Michele Berger
Published: 02/21/2012

These birds, the smallest diving ducks in the Northeast, are just too darn cute. They were my Bird-a-Day species for day 15, and Rene’s bird for Day 47. (By the way, if you’re participating in the challenge, please let us know on Facebook and Twitter, and use the hashtag #birdaday.)

Take our quiz below to determine how much you know about buffleheads. Sure, once you know what they look like, they’re relatively easy to ID. But how knowledgeable are you about their habits? Scroll past the picture for the answers. And as always, check in with The Perch on Fridays for a recap of the BAD challenge, too. Here’s Rene’s post from Week 7.

1. True or False: The white patch looks the same on the heads of both male and female buffleheads.

2. Which of the following is a mating ritual of the male bufflehead trying to court a female?
a. Head bobbing
b. Flying over and landing
c. Swimming by with crest raised
d. All of the above

3. What color are bufflehead eggs?

a. Cream
b. Blue
c. White speckled
d. White

4. True or False: A bufflehead’s diet changes depending on whether the bird feeds in fresh- or saltwater.

5. How large is the overall bufflehead population?
a. 1,200
b. 12,000
c. 120,000
d. 1,200,000


Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife

Answers
1. True or False: The white patch looks the same on the heads of both male and female buffleheads.
False. The white patch is much larger on the male. It extends “across the back of the head…from cheek to cheek, forming a bushy crest,” according to the Ducks Unlimited profile. “The remainder of the head is blackish with an iridescent green and purple sheen.” Female have a browner-colored head and a much smaller white patch across the cheek. Click here and scroll to the bottom to see pictures of the male and female.

2. Which of the following is a mating ritual of the male bufflehead trying to court a female?

D, All of the above (head bobbing, flying over and landing, and swimming by with crest raised). For these birds, which are generally monogamous (though some cases of polygyny have been reported), head bobbing is the most common mating tool. “Fly-over and landing occur when a male courts a female in the presence of other males,” notes Birds of North America online. “The male makes a short flight over the female with the head held forward and low. At landing, the male is upright and the crest is erected as he ‘skis’ on water with his feet pointing forward.”

3. What color are bufflehead eggs?
A, Cream. Bufflehead eggs can also be buff-colored and are typically unmarked. Interestingly, “bufflehead lay eggs more slowly than most other ducks,” according to Cornell’s All About Birds, “commonly with intervals of two or three days between eggs.”

4. True or False: A bufflehead’s diet changes depending on whether the bird feeds in fresh- or saltwater.
True. On freshwater, these birds feast on mostly insects like damsel- and dragonfly larvae, midge larvae, and water boatmen, the largest group of aquatic true bugs, according to Birds of North American online. On saltwater, they eat crustaceans and mollusks including crabs, amphipods, and isopods.

5. How large is the overall bufflehead population?
D, 1,200,000.
That’s the total estimate of mature individuals, according to BirdLife International. “This species has undergone a large and statistically significant increase over the last 40 years in North America (160% increase over 40 years, equating to a 27% increase per decade).” That makes it a species of least concern.

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