Seaside Stories

Buffleheads: Oregon Coast’s Silliest Part-Time Residents

February 15, 2014 | by Veronica Russell

I watch for them in winter. I find my gaze lingering a little longer in the rivers and estuaries as I pass by in late fall, hoping to catch a glimpse of my favorite, funny fancy-boys of the water fowl world: the Buffleheads. Also known as the sea-faring Spirit Duck, these part-time residents of our Oregon coast waterways typically migrate inland to our protected coastal waters to spend the winter.

The males sport their black-feathered backs like a tux jacket with tails, puffed out chests like a crisp white shirt, and a top hat of more formal white and what appears to be black, but is actually a shiny, iridescent purple and green.

You’ve probably seen these small and chubby sharp-dressed men, swimming boisterously along with a handful of friends on the Necanicum or Neawanna rivers in Seaside. Weighing in at about one pound and measuring only slightly over 12 inches in length, these fellows have a quick metabolism and are highly active. In fact, they appear almost as if they are in fast motion compared to their more tranquil cousins, the Canada Geese and Mallards.

They’re cute little ducks for sure, but it’s their antics that make them my favorites: diving dramatically and repeatedly for food, chasing one another to steal a tiny recently procured morsel, taking off for short flights and coming in for a messy, splashtastic landing! These guys often remind me of a scene straight out of an episode of the Three Stooges!

Have you seen these beautiful-feathered waterfowl? Or maybe you have another favorite bird that frequents Oregon’s North Coast in the winter? If you have a favorite birding story to share, please do so by commenting below!

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