Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) - local seasonal appearance

Based on 8 observations in Seymour township, Northumberland county, southeast Ontario, 1999-2020, and other data.

The bufflehead may be seen, alone, in a pair or in a small flock of up to six birds, in the spring migration period, March and April. It may be found on the shores of Lake Ontario in the winter (see below), at e.g., the Niagara Falls area, the lakefronts of Toronto and Cobourg, and at Presqu'ile park, November to April. In Trent Hills it may be seen on the Crowe and Trent rivers, as at Crowe Bridge conservation area, and along the Trent canal both north of and within the town of Campbellford. This attractive waterbird seems to be a spring migrant here: so far I have noticed it only in a narrow window of just four weeks, between 26 March and 23 April.

The bigger picture explains our limited sightings of the handsome bufflehead: it breeds largely from Algoma northwest to Kenora and north to the shore of the Arctic Ocean (Cadman et al., 1987, pp.96-97) Subsequent observations (Cadman et al., 2007, pp.108-109) indicate small breeding populations in Haliburton district, and north of Sudbury, but this small, well-travelled sea duck remains a pleasant sight here on spring migration, and (more often and in much greater numbers) at Presqu'ile.

The bufflehead is seen at Presqu'ile provincial park, roughly 40 km to the south, mainly in migration and in the winter. The spring migration lasts from late January to mid-May, with a peak in early April (LaForest, 1993, p.92). In Peterborough county, to the northwest, this bird is mostly seen in migration, 2 February to 4 May and 1 October to 2 December (Sadler, 1983, p.54).

As noted in the record for the common goldeneye, we have seen diving ducks such as the bufflehead widely around the Lake Ontario shore, where they occur more widely and in larger numbers than in Trent Hills. Some examples of bufflehead sightings include the following, 2003 onwards:

View the complete 22-year (1998-2020) monthly data summary (226-kb pdf file).


Cadman,MD, Eagles,PFJ and Helleiner,FM (1987) Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario. Federation of Ontario Naturalists and Long Point Bird Observatory, published by University of Waterloo Press, 617pp.

Cadman,MD, Sutherland,DA, Beck,GG, Lepage,D and Couturier,AR (editors) (2007) Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario, 2001-2005. Bird Studies Canada, Environment Canada, Ontario Field Ornithologists, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and Ontario Nature, 706pp.

LaForest,SM (1993) Birds of Presqu'ile Provincial Park. Friends of Presqu'ile Park, Brighton, Ontario / Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, 436pp.

Sadler,D (1983) Our Heritage of Birds: Peterborough County in the Kawarthas. Peterborough Field Naturalists / Orchid Press, Peterborough, ON, 192pp.

Graham Wilson, 03 June 2014, updated 14 February 2021

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