Goleta Beach Bufflehead

Dave Compton

Hi folks,

We've been seeing an increasingly diverse set of reports on the sex and age of a single Bufflehead at Goleta Beach recently. The reports date back to late June (first seen by Deann Purcell, I believe), when everyone was seeing what was obviously a male. This checklist has photos from the first day it was seen:

However, it has been molting since it first arrived, and by 9 July was looking very different, as shown in the photo in the checklist below:

But as recently as two days ago, from the right angle, you would never doubt this bird was a male, as shown in this checklist:

However, from another angle, it might look less like our classic image of male. See the photo taken yesterday in this list:

This is a rare bird here at this time of year, and of course it's unlikely an obvious male was here early in the season, then departed, and was replaced by another Bufflehead. Yet reports have been of an adult male, an immature male, and a female. Clearly, these reports are all of the same bird, now in eclipse plumage. Note that, even in it's current, female-like plumage, it's more contrasting than a female, and is more gray in places where a female should look duller gray or brownish. Not sure of the exact age, but it's safe to call it an adult. For certain, it's not a hatch year bird, anyway. 

Dave Compton
Santa Barbara  

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