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Lesser Scaup

Aythya affinis

Diving Ducks Family

Waterfowl Identification

 
Male Lesser Scaup
male
Female Lesser Scaup
female
Similar Waterfowl:
Greater Scaup
Description:
Lesser and greater scaup are often found together. The smaller size of the lesser scaup is very obvious. Lesser scaup also have a smaller less round, purple-tinted head than greater scaup. Male lesser scaup have a glossy black head with a purple cast. The neck, breast, and upper mantle are glossy black. The back is light gray with broad heavy vermiculations of sooty black. The tail, upper and under-tail coverts are black. The wing has a white speculum and the inner primaries are light brown, becoming darker towards the tips and outer primaries. The bill is a light blue-gray with a black nail, the legs and feet are gray, and the iris is yellow. Female lesser scaup have a brownish head, neck, and chest, and white oval patches around their bills. The back, rump, and scapulars are dark brown and the speculum is white. The bill is similar to that of the male, but slightly duller, the legs and feet are gray, and the iris is yellow.
Typical Size:
The male and female average 17 inches in length and weigh 1 3/4 pounds. They have a wingspan of 28 inches.
Habitat:
Deeper, more permanent wetlands are preferred. Lesser scaup prefer wetland habitats with emergent vegetation, such as bulrushes, since they often harbor abundant populations of aquatic insect larvae.
Breeding:
Lesser scaup have one of the most extensive breeding ranges of North American ducks. Their breeding range extends from the northern USA through the prairie pothole region, to the Bering Sea, with the largest breeding populations occurring in the boreal forest of Canada. They typically breed near interior lakes, ponds, and sedge meadows. Females nest in close proximity to open water and lay an average of 9 eggs.
Diet:
Lesser scaup dive to feed on seeds of pondweeds, widgeon grass, wild rice, sedges, and bulrushes. They also feed on crustaceans, mollusks, aquatic insects, and small fish.
Migration:
Fresh and brackish water wetlands and open bays are preferred wintering habitats. Lesser scaup common winter visitor to Central America, the Caribbean and northern Colombia; occasional winter visitor Ecuador, Venezuela and Trinidad.
Flyway Patterns:
The majority of lesser scaup migrate through the Central and Mississippi flyways to wintering areas along the Gulf of Mexico, and coastal Florida.
Flight Formation:
Large flocks are closely bunched. Flight speeds reach 50 MPH.
Voice:
The males have a coarse SCAUP or PURR and the females are usually silent.

Lesser Scaup Flight and Plumage Characteristics

This guide will help you recognize Lesser Scaup on the wing - it emphasizes their size, shape, and flight characteristics. The majority of lesser scaup migrate through the Central and Mississippi flyways to wintering areas along the Gulf of Mexico, and coastal Florida and migrate late, just before freezeup. Compact flocks are the norm and movements are rapid and erratic. In flight greater and lesser scaup appear nearly identical. The wings of the lesser have a light band near the trailing edges which runs almost half way to the tip while the greater goes to the tip. While greater scaup often prefer large open water areas, the lesser scaup often like marshes and ponds. The males have a coarse SCAUP or PURR and the females are usually silent.

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