Bufflehead Duck, One of Diverse Divers at Aransas Bay
Dr. James J. S. Johnson
And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. (Genesis 1:22)
Diverse birds have lived and thrived upon planet Earth ever since God created bird-life on Day #5 of Creation Week. One of the major categories of God’s avian inventory are the waterfowl we call “ducks”, some of which dive to get their food. The Bufflehead duck is one such diving duck (in contrast to perching duck, dabbling ducks, and whistling ducks), and is described on the Sea Duck Joint Venture website as follows:
Bufflehead [Bucephala albeola] The bufflehead is the smallest diving duck in North America. Males weigh about 450 g (1 lb.) and females 325 g (11 oz.). Breeding males are striking with a black head glossed green and purple, a large white patch covering the back of the head, a black back, white underparts, and black wings with a large white patch covering most of the inner wing.
[Quoting from https://seaduckjv.org/meet-the-sea-ducks/bufflehead/ .]
The Bufflehead female, however, is mostly brownish-hued, with grey sides and breast, white underside, and a white cheek patch that is shaped like an oval, almost like the shape of a fallen bowling pin. [See Kevin T. Karlson, “Waterfowl of North America: A Comprehensive Guide to All Species”, page 10.]
The Bufflehead’s cousins include the goldeneye ducks, such as the Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) and Barrow’s Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica).
As the range map below shows, the Bufflehead breeds mostly in Alaska and Canada, migrating south into more than half of America’s Lower 48 for over-wintering.
During an over-wintering season, on March 11th of AD1996, I first saw a Bufflehead duck – it was in the part of Aransas Bay (part of the Texas Gulf coast), while visiting Aransas Bay and Aransas Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
That same day my family and I saw many other “winter Texan” migrants (as well as some year-round residents), including several “lifers”: Whooping Crane, Brown Pelican, Pelican, Least Tern, Bonaparte’s Gull, Herring Gull, Laughing Gull, American Coot, Short-billed Dowitcher, Western Sandpiper, Black Skimmer, Black-necked Stilt, American Oystercatcher, Common Goldeneye, Green-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, Louisiana Heron, Roseate Spoonbill, White Ibis, and Western Kingbird — not to mention many other birds seen previously elsewhere (e.g., Sandhill Crane, Blue-winged Teal, Great Blue Heron, White Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Common Grackle, Western Kingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, etc.)!
Obviously, early March (and winter in general) is a good time for coastal wetland birdwatching at Aransas Bay! What a pleasant time it was, hour after hour, witnessing Gods’ love of variety, exhibited in those beautiful bayside birds!
God loves variety — so should we! (For more on this, see my article “Valuing God’s Variety”, ACTS & FACTS, 42(9):8-9 (September 2012), posted at http://www.icr.org/article/6939 .]
So, if you get the opportunity, check out Aransas Bay National Wildlife Refuge for yourself — unless a hurricane is approaching. (It’s always good to check the weather forecast before you undertake a serious birding adventure.)