Because of its constant activity, this tiny black and white duck is a joy to watch. It is fairly common in open waters in southern Ontario in winter but is very scarce anywhere in Ontario in summer, though some non-breeders may turn up almost anywhere.
This is a small diving duck, about the size of a teal, with much white both when floating high on the water and when in flight. The male with its puffy black head with white triangle wedging from the crown in towards the eye, is easily identified.
The female appears darker but wears a white “feather in its cap” and is usually associated with one or more males. Some Ruddy Ducks look a bit like the female but generally look whiter on the cheeks and darker on the sides: Ruddy Ducks are known for their “sticky up tails” but Buffleheads also have been known to stick up their tails. A close look is sometimes required to distinguish the two, but the white patch behind the eye and slightly below it, in the Bufflehead, may usually be seen farther than the whitish cheek, with dark horizontal line through it, of the Ruddy female.