Status: Common, locally abundant, regular spring and fall migrant statewide. Rare casual summer visitor statewide. Accidental breeder Brown Co. Rare, locally uncommon, regular winter visitor west, south, east.
Documentation: Specimen: WSC 544, 4 Nov 1979 Gavin’s Point Dam, Cedar Co.
Taxonomy: No subspecies are recognized.
Spring: Jan 26, 27, 28 <<<>>> May 30, Jun 1,4
Arrival occurs as water opens. Peak numbers occur in late Mar and decline substantially into late May. There is a later date 6 Jun 1999 at Youngson WPA, Adams Co.
- High counts: 1440 at Crescent Lake NWR, Garden Co 25 Apr 1995, 418 at Lake Ogallala, Keith Co 14 Mar 2001, and 300 at Lake Wanahoo, Saunders Co 14 Apr 2013.
Summer: There is a single breeding record: an adult female and four downy young about two weeks old were found on Hagan Lake, Brown Co, 24 Jun 2000 by an NGPC waterfowl biologist (Mollhoff 2001; Wayne Mollhoff, pers. comm.).
Most summer (5 Jun-10 Sep) reports are from Garden Co, probably immature non-breeders; 12 were at Crescent Lake NWR 7 Aug 1998 (see Fall). Of about 21 reports away from Garden Co, most are in the Panhandle and western Sandhills, with these exceptions: 10 Jun 1995 Dakota Co, 21 Jun 2008 Hamilton Co, 30 Jun 1984 Adams Co, 1 Jul 1986 Pierce Co, and 10 Jul 1916 Inland, Clay Co (Brooking, Notes).
Fall: Sep 11, 12, 14 <<<>>> Jan 7, 10, 11
Fall migrants arrive in late Sep; there are earlier reports of an immature at the Gordon SL, Sheridan Co 10 Sep 1994, a par at Crescent Lake NWR, Garden Co 11 Sep 2019, as many as 52 there 16 Sep 1995, and 13 there 21 Sep 2000. Numbers peak in early Nov, although a good count for the late date was the 385 at Lake Ogallala 30-31 Dec 2011. Late dates above are away from regular wintering sites.
- High counts: 1394 at Lake Ogallala 14 Nov 2000, 1266 at Lake McConaughy 31 Oct 2006, and 1200 at Keystone Lake, Keith Co 9 Nov 1990 (Rosche 1994).
Winter: Regular overwintering probably occurs only at Lake Ogallala. Rosche (1994) stated that about 100 birds winter there most years; at least 184 wintered 1999-2000.
There are several mid-winter (12-25 Jan) reports away from Lake Ogallala, scattered statewide: 14 Jan 2019 Fort Niobrara, Cherry Co, 1-3 from 7-15 Jan Alma SL, Harlan Co, 16 Jan 2012 Frontier Co, 19 Jan 2014 Antelope Co, 20 Jan 1962 Adams Co, and 22 Jan 2000 Harlan Co Reservoir, Harlan Co.
NGPC: Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
NWR: National Wildlife Refuge
SL: Sewage Lagoons
WPA: Waterfowl Production Area (Federal)
WSC: Wayne State College
Brooking, A.M. Notes. Bird specimen records. Manuscript in NOU Archives.
Mollhoff, W.J. 2001. 1999-2000 Nebraska nesting report. NBR 69: 92-101.
Rosche, R.C. 1994. Birds of the Lake McConaughy area and the North Platte River valley, Nebraska. Published by the author, Chadron, Nebraska, USA.
Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen. 2018. Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola), Version 1.0. In Birds of Nebraska — Online. www.BirdsofNebraska.org
Birds of Nebraska – Online