December 1, 2011 —
Fall always brings some feathered visitors to the region that are not full time residents here. From golden eagles and loons to snow buntings, they all provide a great variety of wildlife viewing during migration season. One species that is commonly seen around starting in October is interesting in that it has to dive for its dinner.
The bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) is the smallest diving duck in North America. Black and white in color, they usually assemble in small flocks on lakes and rivers. These diving ducks forage for small invertebrates and plants and dive to the bottom to do it.
A bufflehead, like other diving ducks, has positive buoyancy and floats with ease on top of the water. So how does it manage to get to the lake or river bottom? (No buoyancy vest or weight belt.)
A photo sequence of a diving bufflehead shows the steps a bufflehead takes to perform its descent for dinner. Preferring shallow water of 10 feet or so in depth, buffleheads are not the deepest divers, but they are fun to watch.
Enjoy them when you can, because iced over waterways will spur them to move on to estuarine habitats in New Jersey and points south where they will winter.