Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Whitt, Michael B. 1999. Bufflehead brood in northeastern South Dakota. Prairie Naturalist 31(2):119-120.
This resource should be cited as:
Whitt, Michael B. 1999. Bufflehead brood in northeastern South Dakota. Prairie Naturalist 31(2):119-120. Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online. http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/birds/bufhead/index.htm (Version 17AUG2000).
On 16 June 1997, I observed an adult female bufflehead with eight recently hatched ducklings (age class 1A; Gollop and Marshall 1954) in Hamlin County (T115N, R55W, Sec. 11, SW 1/4). I observed the hen and brood with binoculars from 35 m for 10 min at an isolated, depressional 4.5 ha semipermanent wetland in a Waterfowl Production Area. Distinguishing characteristics included the female's white cheek patch, small size, and brown color, combined with the bold black-and-white pattern and white cheek patch of the downy young (Nelson 1993). The hen and brood floated motionless in open water as I observed them, but they were gone when I returned with a coworker approximately 20 min later. I estimated basin area as 89% open water, 5% emergent vegetation, 5% wet meadow, and 1% flooded trees. Surrounding habitat within 400 m of the wetland included 30% planted cover (dense nesting cover), 20% hayland, 15% woodland, 15% wetland, 10% cropland, 6% right-of-way, and 4% barren land (dirt road surface).
My observation was made during extensive breeding bird surveys at more than 1000 wetland basins in the Prairie Pothole Region of North Dakota and South Dakota conducted from 1995 to 1997 (D. H. Johnson, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, Jamestown, ND, unpubl. data). Workers observed 18 bufflehead and indicated breeding pairs in both states during three years, but my observation was the only confirmed breeding record based on breeding bird atlas criteria (Laughlin et al. 1982). The brood likely was produced locally because diving ducks of age class lA are too young to have traveled far. Bufflehead are rare in the Prairie Pothole Region, but continental populations have increased since the 1950's (Gauthier 1993). A wet cycle in the region from 1993 to 1997 resulted in high water levels that reduced stands of emergent vegetation and killed peripheral trees at many wetlands. Suitable cavity trees adjacent to wetlands with little emergent vegetation probably afforded proximate habitat cues for this breeding record south of typical bufflehead breeding range.
I thank R. R. Cox, L. D. Igl, D. H. Johnson, P. J. Pietz, and M. A. Sovada for reviewing an earlier draft of my manuscript.
Gauthier, G. 1993. Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola). In The birds of North America, No. 67 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.), The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. Gollop, J. B., and W. H. Marshall. 1954. A guide for aging duck broods in the field. Miss. Flyway Counc. Tech. Sect. Laughlin, S. B., D. P. Kibbe, and P. F. J. Eagles. 1982. Atlasing the distribution of breeding birds of North America. Am. Birds 36:6-19. Nelson, C. H. 1993. The downy waterfowl of North America. Delta Station Press, Deerfield, IL. Peskin, L., and J. E. Rorah. 1991. Bufflehead nest in Brookings County South Dakota. SD Bird Notes 43:77. Peterson, R. A. 1995. South Dakota breeding bird atlas. South Dakota Ornithologists' Union. Northern State University, Aberdeen, SD. Stukel, E. D., and D. C. Backlund. 1997. Animal species monitored by the South Dakota natural heritage program. Prairie Nat. 29:179-213. Erratum 29:290-291.