Courting Mrs Bufflehead

  • This video shows some of the behavior of Bufflehead ducks during courtship and protection of its mate
  • The following is from Gauthier, Gilles. 2014. Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online:
  • Almost exclusively monogamous, this is one of the few ducks that often keeps the same mate for several years.
  • Head-bobbing is the most common courtship display.
  • The male swims toward a female and starts making a movement in which the head is repeatedly extended upwards and forwards (about 60° to the surface), and then retracted in rapid jerks, with brief pauses in the lowered stance.
  • A characteristic sequence of actions during courtship involves Fly-over and Landing, Head-shake-forwards and Wing-lifting, and small Head-bobbing
  • Fly-over and Landing occur when a male courts a female in the presence of other males.
  • 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, thereby showing his conspicuous black and white upper plumage and bright pink feet.
  • After he settles on the water, the head is thrust forward (Head-shake-forwards), and the wings are raised sharply behind the head (Wing-lifting). Head-bobbing follows.
  • Much of this behavior can be seen in this video.
  • For mating the male mounts the female while firmly gripping her nape feathers.
  • The male flicks his wings once, presumably at the moment of intromission (like most ducks, Buffleheads have a penis).
  • Copulation is brief as the male mounts the female for only 10–15 s.
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