Bufflehead Bachelorette

Bufflehead female (Bucephala albeola)

All the other Bufflehead have flown away weeks ago. Here in late May, a lone Bufflehead female spent the night on a rock near the northeast corner of the park, and as I filmed, woke up and did the morning’s preening. I had seen her paddling and diving the previous day.

Birds that are found far from the location of their main flock, such as when East Coast natives are found on the West Coast, are called “vagrants.” I hate that term; it’s pejorative when used on humans and it doesn’t sound any more kind when applied to birds. But now, what do you call a bird that is found in a location where hundreds of its kind have gathered, but at a different time? She’s not an outlier geographically but chronologically.

Bufflehead are unusual among ducks in that they form pairs that stick together for multiple seasons. Maybe not for life, but for longer than one breeding episode. This female probably does not have a mate, and possibly, due to that fact, sees no reason to undertake the arduous flight of 2000+ miles to the northern breeding grounds. Why not spend the summer here?

Whether that works out for her remains to be seen. From time to time I’ve seen one or a few birds that stayed in the park long after the multitudes of their species migrated back north. I’ve tracked them for a few weeks and then eventually they dropped from view. How? Why? No answer.

Bufflehead female (Bucephala albeola)

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