One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A small North American diving duck related to the goldeneye, with a large puffy head. The male has white plumage with a black back.
Bucephala albeola, family Anatidae
- ‘The marsh hawk perches in a bare cottonwood tree, scowling at a flock of bufflehead ducks bobbing on the marsh.’
- ‘And wigeon and scaup, teal and shovelers, buffleheads and a few mottled ducks.’
- ‘These ducks are diving, not just dunking, but really diving under the water head first, going completely under like a merganser or bufflehead, and not appearing to be surface feeding at all.’
- ‘Neophytes at duck identification often confuse a bufflehead with a male hooded merganser when the latter's crest is raised showing a large patch of white feathers.’
- ‘The sea ducks - common golden-eyes and buffleheads - are up in central Alaska.’
Mid 17th century (in the sense ‘simpleton’): from obsolete buffle ‘buffalo’ + head. The current sense (mid 18th century) may be an independent formation because of the duck's large square-shaped head.
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