North American Bufflehead Duck Visits The Quoile

Twitchers are starting to gather in force at the Quoile Estuary outside Downpatrick for what is groundbreaking bird news.

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Twitchers are starting to gather in force at the Quoile Estuary outside Downpatrick for what is groundbreaking bird news.

A Bufflehead duck, a male, has been spotted feeding in the vicinity of the Quoile Estuary. It is the first time that this visitor is thought to have visited the British Isles as it comes from North America 3000 miles across the Atlantic.

The Bufflehead was spotted by local bird enthusiast Tony Donaldson at the Quoile Estuary who regularly walks around the estuary paths and to the Quoile floodgates. Tony said: “It was diving at regular intervals searching for food. It seemed quite at home. It was nice of it to drop in for a feed in our local river.

“The bird watching community was certainly astir this week as the Bufflehead duck which resembles the Goldeneye Duck being in the same family.

“The Bufflehead has been verified by birdwatchers who have come from far and wide.

The male Bufflehead duck which has arrived from North America is thought to be the first of its kind to visit Ireland or the UK. (Photo by Tony Donaldson)

“The best views can be had from around Castle Island from the bird hide, although the bird hide is closed due to Covid-19 regulations.

“It really is a beautiful wee duck to see up close but tends to stay over the other side feeding in the deeper water.”

The duck may move on to another location at some stage but is feeding at Castle Island at the Quoile Estuary at the moment.

The small Bufflehead duck tends to breed in areas that are wooded around lakes and rivers in Canada and the US but this solitary visitor may have trouble finding a seasonal mate when spring comes round.

It is a busy, energetic bird and feeds on worms, snails, small fish, crustaceans, and shrimps. Belonging to the Bucephala albeola family, the Bufflehead is essentially a small sea duck of the family Bucephala.

Most of the Buffleheads in North America tend to winter in sheltered coastal or inland areas mostly on the east and west coasts of Canada and the US. They can migrate 3000 miles in the winter east or west eg from Alberta to East Coast of Canada 3000 miles. But the Quoile Bufflehead is another 3000 miles off course. It was probably caught up in North Atlantic bad weather and blown off course.