February 19, 2021
It's time for today's #BenInNature update presented by our friends at Carter Bank & Trust!
Let's close out the week with another photo from December's VMNH Christmas Bird Count: a pair of buffleheads (Bucephala albeola)!
Buffleheads are small sea ducks, and like many ducks, they're sexually dimorphic, meaning the males and females look quite different from one another. In this photo, the bufflehead in the foreground is a male, while the one behind it is a female.
These beautiful ducks spend their winters in the contiguous U.S., and during breeding season, they can be found at wooded lakes and ponds in Alaska and Canada. They build their nests in trees, mostly inside cavities excavated by the woodpecker known as the northern flicker. It isn't always easy for them to find a suitable cavity, especially since they face stiff competition from mountain bluebirds, invasive European starlings, and tree swallows. Despite these challenges, the number of buffleheads has remained pretty consistent over time while other sea ducks have declined in numbers.
Buffleheads are highly active and can often be spotted diving again and again as they hunt for food. In freshwater, they generally eat insects, and while they're at sea, they feed on mollusks and crustaceans.
If you'd like to spot a bufflehead here in Virginia, keep your eyes peeled near bodies of water during the winter months!
Social distancing can be difficult, but it presents a great opportunity to become reacquainted with nature. In this series of posts, Administrator of Science Ben Williams ventures outdoors to record a snapshot of the unique sights that can be found in the natural world. New updates are posted Monday - Friday, with previous posts highlighted on the weekends. This series of posts is made possible thanks to the support of VMNH Corporate Partner Carter Bank & Trust (www.cbtcares.com)
NATURE PHOTO IDENTIFICATIONS
If you discover something in nature that you would like help identifying, be sure to message us right here on Facebook with a picture (please include location and date of picture) and we'll have our experts help you identify it!