Wildlife - Species

Bufflehead - photograph by US Fish and Wildlife

Species Specific Regulations


Licenses: Hunting License required. Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (Federal Duck Stamp) that is validated by the hunter signing the stamp in ink across the face of the stamp

Limits: Please see Migratory Bird Regulations for any game zones restrictions or Limitations.

Complete hunting regulations.

Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)

Bufflehead Drawings

Buffleheads are recognizable by their very small size, and bold black and white color pattern.

Average Size
Buffleheads have an average length of 14 1/2 inches and an average weight of 1 pound.

Buffleheads are found in all 4 flyways, with the largest concentrations on both coasts and along the Gulf of Mexico. They are found throughout South Carolina during the winter months.

Preferred Habitat
During the breeding season they commonly inhabit freshwater, permanent ponds and small lakes. During the winter they are found predominately in saltwater, especially in protected areas such as coves, harbors, and estuaries. Wintering inland birds use ponds, lakes, and impoundments.

Typical Flock Pattern


Food Habits

Buffleheads consume mostly aquatic invertebrates, such as insects, crustaceans, and mollusks. They will also eat small amounts of seeds.


Buffleheads are cavity nesters, predominately nesting in old northern flicker nest cavities. They will also nest readily in nest boxes. Once a nest cavity is selected the hen will lay 4-17 cream to buff colored eggs.


Both males and female are usually silent. During courtship drakes squeak and have a guttural note, and hens quack weakly.


  • Stragglers migrate south in mid-fall, but the largest numbers move just ahead of freezeup.
  • Unlike most divers, they can fly straight up from a watery takeoff.
  • Rarely found on land.
  • Territorial during the breeding season, actively protecting habitat and their hen.
  • Can be found in small flocks, usually 5 to 10 ducks, never more than 50 in winter.

Citations, Publications and Literature

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Federal Duck Stamp Office Presents: North American Waterfowl

Gauthier, Gilles. 1993. 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

Hunting Information

South Carolina waterfowl hunters 16 and older are required by state law to obtain a state migratory waterfowl permit and Migratory Game Bird permit. Both permits must be in the hunter's possession while hunting or transporting legal waterfowl. A state waterfowl permit is included with the Lifetime Senior, Lifetime Gratis and Disability Licenses. S.C. residents who hold a Lifetime Senior or Lifetime Gratis License are not required to have a Migratory Game Bird permit.

National Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP)

The waterfowl permits and HIP permits are available from select DNR offices and from hunting and fishing license agents.

Dean Harrigal - Waterfowl Biologist

585 Donnelley Drive
Green Pond, SC 29446
Phone: 843-844-8957
Fax: 843-844-2525

E-mail: harrigald@dnr.sc.gov