Interspecific Mate Choice and Hybridism in the Bufflehead, Bucephala albeola


  • James K. Finley 10232 Summerset Place, Sidney, British Columbia V8L 4X2
  • Suzanne Huot Cloake Hill Road, North Saanich, British Columbia V8L 5J9



Sea ducks, Mergini, Bufflehead, Bucephala albeola, goldeneyes, Bucephala spp., interspecific mate choice, hybridism, British Columbia


Observations of a male Bufflehead (Bucephela albeola) paired with a female Common Goldeneye (Bucephela clangula) in northern Alberta in 1995 and of a hybrid male Common Goldeneye × Bufflehead photographed near Victoria, British Columbia, in March 2009 provide the first combined evidence of interspecific mate choice and out-crossing in Bucephala albeola. Since 1999, there have been at least 10 unofficial records, including photographs, of Common Goldeneye × Bufflehead hybrids posted on the Internet, as well as 6 records of hybridization with Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus). In all cases, where evident in Common Goldeneye × Buffleheads, gold eyes and pink feet were expressed and social affiliation was with Common Goldeneyes, suggesting matrilineage with that species. Because most attention is given to the hybrid - and to male hybrids at that - rather than to the progenitors, the theory of mate attraction, through sexual imprinting of males, is biased toward the paternal viewpoint. It appears that there is more plasticity in mate choice, particularly by the female. The opportunity to observe mate choice is much rarer than the hybrid outcome, while the odds of the latter have increased many fold in the last decade due to advances in Internet communication and digital photography. This exercise illustrates the ability of the Internet to amplify the prevalence of rare phenomena many fold over historical records.