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Originally published December 10, 2016. by Greg Hanisek, editor of The Connecticut Warbler Where To Find Them: Both species can be found in saltwater and freshwater, although neither is numerous on freshwater in Connecticut. Figure 8. Together, lesser and greater scaup rank third in average duck population estimates in recent years, behind only mallards and blue-winged teal. Oil spills, climate change, fishing, shipping routes—threats facing Arctic seabirds are vast, and hard to track. Audubon protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Other notes: The best time to review the shape of the head is when the ducks are loafing around or napping. Confined to the New World, the Lesser Scaup is thought to be descended from an earlier invasion of North America by the ancestor of both modern species of scaup. These scaup ducks are again divided in3to two other divisions which are greater scaup and lesser scaup ducks. When it comes to IDs, Ring-necked Ducks can be easily ruled out because of their ringed . Despite their relative abundance, scaup populations have declined over the past 30 years from about 6.3 million birds in the 1970s to 4.2 million in last year's survey. NOTE- Greater and Lesser Scaup - Due to the fact that it is extremely difficult to determine the difference between the two species, a third photo must be included for certification of these two species. Often in flocks with other Aythya ducks. Greater and lesser scaup share a number of traits, not the least of which is a distinctive blue bill, from which they derive their popular nickname "bluebills." Lesser scaup drakes in nuptial plumage are often said to be recognizable by the purple instead of green sheen of the head and a darker back. Visit your local Audubon center, join a chapter, or help save birds with your state program. Greater and Lesser Scaups can be difficult to distinguish in the field. Greater Scaup Aythya marila. Your support helps secure a future for birds at risk. Tell Congress to stop efforts to strip away critical protections in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. So what’s a bewildered scaup watcher to do? Here is a summary of the seven responses I got to the three scaup photos I posted a couple of days ago. Bald Eagle. Legal Notices Privacy Policy Contact Us. Wing pattern of Lesser Scaup and Scaup x Tufted Duck Scaup x Tufted Duck 13/3/11 : The above Scaup x Tufted hybrid was on Eglwys on Sunday. The males also look like they have white and gray whales imprinted on their sides. I hardly think that piece of information is so controversial as to need multiple citations; one would probably be right to assume it from the birds' names. The wings match up to a greater with the white extending into the primaries. During winter, location can be a deciding factor. It has a blue bill and yellow eyes and is 20% heavier and 10% longer than the closely related lesser scaup. The white wing stripe extends strongly into the primaries of the Greater, evident from above and below, and with more contrast between inner and outer primaries than in Lesser. Mistakes happen to the best of us. These giant groups can be seen side by side on the water, but they hardly intermingle. But don't get discouraged. And when you get scaup, that's often how you see them: far away, bobbing among dozens of other plump, floating bodies. Greater scaups have a light band near the trailing edges of the wings runs almost to the tip, but in lesser scaups it runs only about half way. Range. Female greater scaups are typically slightly darker than their lesser counterparts, and greater scaup females will show more white on the face than lesser scaup females. T The shape of the head is more distinctive in these two images than the amount of white in the wings. They congregate by the hundreds and thousands along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts during winter. Here it evolved into a distinct species, to be joined later by a second arrival, the Greater Scaup, found in both hemispheres. . Male lesser scaup have a glossy black head with a purple cast. The lesser scaup breeds from Alaska and western Ontario south to Minnesota, northern Colorado, and northern California. Tufted Ducks hew to their name pretty closely: Males have a spray of feathers that curves back behind their head, forming a tuft. Here, black-and-white males and chocolatey-brown females bob along on the waves. The greater scaup and lesser scaup are some of the most challenging waterfowl for birders to distinguish between, and there is no single indicator that is clear for either bird. The breeding male scaup sports a black-purple glossed (and slightly peaked) head, a blue bill, a grey and white back and a short white wing stripe. Tufted Duck generally shuns the coast, but is reliably found in any freshwater habitat with water deep enough. The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. Lesser Scaup - Pennington, Gtr Mcr, UK - or is it? Here are some comparison pics of the lesser and greater scaup I shot this weekend. Both the Lesser and Greater scaup are popularly called "Bluebills." The lesser scaup looks very similar to the greater scaup. In fact, that may be the only distinguishing clue you can see. Just keep practicing. Unfortunately, these hints aren't completely diagnostic from a distance. The greater scaup is a little larger than the lesser scaup, its head is more rounded, and the black tip on the end of the bill is larger. Early naturalists claimed that the name stemmed from the birds' habit of feeding on scalp—the Scottish word for clams, oysters, and mussels. I've been reading a little bit about the various wing patterns, both upper and under, and thought it was a good opportunity to show comparison shots. And remember: Even if you make the wrong call, the ducks won’t think any less of you. But greater scaup have white on their primary and secondary feathers extending nearly to the tip of the wing, while lesser scaup only have white on their secondaries. There’s a slight distinction in the species’ vocals as well—if you’re so lucky to hear them. Very similar to Lesser Scaup; note smoothly rounded head without tall peak, puffier cheeks, more extensive white stripe on wing in flight, and larger, broader bill. Membership benefits include one year of Audubon magazine and the latest on birds and their habitats. How Bird-Friendly Are Your Holiday Decorations? Twelve morphological measurements were taken on each bird and wing stripes were quantitatively scored using soil colour charts. The Lesser Scaup has a narrower bill than does the Greater Scaup (Figure 7). Traditionally, lesser scaup (a.k.a. More supportive is that the white shading doesn’t extend to the wing tips, rather it seems to halt about mid-wing where it seems to blend to gray/brown. Still, there’s quite a bit of overlap in their ranges, especially in the summer when Greaters hang out in lakes and bogs, in addition to their regular seaside dives. Here in North America we typically get four kinds: Ring-necked, Tufted, and of course, the pesky Greater and Lesser Scaup. Size is one, as lesser scaup are about 20 percent smaller than greater scaup. It is broader away from the head in more of a spoon shape. Our email newsletter shares the latest programs and initiatives. beaks (yeah, it's confusing). The only circumpolar diving duck, the Greater Scaup breeds across the tundra regions in North America and Europe. DU celebrates historic signing of ACE Act into law. Appearance. There are, however, a number of differences. Some Greaters may show a bump on the front and rear crown, but its lower profile, evenly rounded head shape differs from Lesser, which has a taller, narrower head with a peak near the rear of the crown. When viewed from the front, the greater scaup has a more triangular, broader head compared to the narrower head of the lesser scaup. Let us send you the latest in bird and conservation news. Photo: Howard Arndt/Audubon Photography Awards, Great Egret. The origin of the term scaup, however, is less clear. The third photo must show the extended wing to show the white speculum in its entirety. Greater Scaup tend to choose saltwater bodies, while Lesser Scaup are found in freshwater zones further inland. When they’re active—feeding, flying, etc.—they move their necks, which makes it difficult to choose between round or narrow. Wings: In flight, the greater yellowlegs is more likely to show white speckles along the secondary feathers, while the lesser yellowlegs has much plainer wings. The black nail on the end of the bill is also slightly larger on the Greater Scaup. Greater Scaup is slightly larger than Lesser Scaup and has a more rounded head shape with a peak closer to the front of the crown. They both form flocks that number in the hundreds or thousands. Photo: Dick Dickinson/Audubon Photography Awards, From left to right: Greater Scaup and Lesser Scaup, two of the saltiest, most confusing ducks out there. Greater and Lesser Scaup Summary of Responses . In the Greater Scaup, the white extends into the primaries. There are several problems with this method. Greater and lesser scaups appear nearly identical in the field but they have some subtle differences. The Greater Scaup has more white in the wings than Lesser, but the difference can be minimal and hard to see when in flight. Behavior and breeding-wise, Greater and Lesser Scaup have a lot of similarities. Lesser Scaup! Are the Trump Administration's Environmental Rollbacks Built to Last? Let’s talk about "Oreo ducks." They tend to form tight groups and mix with other diving ducks such as Canvasbacks, Redheads, Greater Scaup, and Ring-necked Ducks. National Audubon Society Lesser Scaups average about 10% shorter and 25% lighter than Greater Scaups. Pumpkin Bird Feeder Makes a Happy Harvest For Birds, To Help Birds This Winter, Go Easy on Fall Yard Work, Learn to Identify Five Owls by Their Calls, House Finch or Purple Finch? Except for the wing marks, greater and lesser scaup appear nearly identical in the field. We protect birds and the places they need. Up close, the drake lesser scaup's head has a purplish iridescence, while the sheen on the greater scaup's head is green. The Lesser has a peaked, angular head that the Greater lacks. This varies greatly with the bird's age, however, as well as how worn the feathers are when the bird is seen. The majority of the birds follow the Atlantic and Pacific flyways during fall migration. Over the years I have repeatedly heard that head color is a great way to separate the male scaup species; blue for Lesser Scaup (LESC) and green for Greater Scaup (GRSC). The Greater Scaup can easily be confused with its cousin the Lesser Scaup, which are nearly identical in the field except for the wing marks. Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis. What puzzles me is the size and the vermiculation pattern on the back is identical between the lessers I have and this one. The bill has the coloring aside from the black going beyond the nail. The greater scaup also has a rounder head, wider bill, and larger black nail at the tip of the bill. Photos: Janet Covell/Great Backyard Bird Count; Brian Kushner. Hard to tell in the field. Here's how to save face. Corey November 16, 2011 at 8:51 pm @Derek: I wonder. blue bill) have been one of the most abundant ducks in North America; however, over the last 20 years, the duck population has spiraled downward. Drakes of both species appear similar from afar, with dark heads, white flanks, and gray backs. Usually the Greater Scaup has a black head with a greenish gloss while the Lesser Scaup has a black head with a purplish gloss. It’s the least you can do. Can This Critically Endangered Bird Survive Australia's New Climate Reality? The lesser scaup has a straighter neck and more oval head with the peak further back, and a resting lesser scaup will show a notch or corner toward the back of the head. Seen in flight, the white on the Lesser Scaup's wings fades to gray in the primaries. At this time of year, any lake, reservoir or gravel pit should host this species, as well as its frequent companion, Common Pochard. The female’s extensions are much shorter, but they’re still noticeable. Overwhelmed and Understaffed, Our National Wildlife Refuges Need Help. Both hens are brown with a white crescent patch at the base of their bill. Though common in Europe and Asia, the species is considered rare in the continental United States. It’s a challenging ID, but head shape can take you a long way. Carl Mobile, AL DHBP Member since 1998 "Life is too short to drink bad beer." Greater Scaup tend to choose saltwater bodies, while Lesser Scaup are found in freshwater zones further inland. Improving water quality in Lake Mitchell S.D. Some clues to help distinguish between these two often-confused finches. This is by far the commonest Aythya and therefore the most familiar. Audubon does not participate in political campaigns, nor do we support or oppose candidates.”. I believe this is the best separation clue used by sea-watch counters for scaup in flight. Once Ring-necked and Tufted Ducks are out of the running, you’re left with the pair that’s toughest to tell apart: scaup. Scaup begin nesting relatively late, usually from late May to mid-June. These aren't the noisiest ducks, but the Lesser will emit an occasional whistle and has a higher pitch. Visit DU's Waterfowl ID resource to get more information and images regarding bluebills. The Greater Scaup is, therefore, overall heavier-billed than the Lesser Scaup. Lesser scaup alone are the most numerous of all North American diving ducks, accounting for almost 90 percent of the combined scaup population, making them "less" than their cousins in size only. Both images contain a male Greater Scaup in the center, and image N has a male Ring-necked Duck on the left. First, this does nothing to help us with the females. Drakes of both species appear similar from afar, with dark heads, white flanks, and gray backs. Both species migrate late, sometimes just before freezeup. The adult greater scaup is 39–56 cm (15–22 in) long with a 71–84 cm (28–33 in) wingspan and a body mass of 726–1,360 g (1.601–2.998 lb). Ducks Unlimited has supported a variety research to determine the reasons for this downward trend in scaup numbers. Lesser scaup also have a smaller, less-round, purple-tinted head than greater scaup. Greater scaup prefer large open water areas; lesser scaup often use marshes and ponds. With help from Jason St. Sauver, the resident bird expert at the Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center, we’ve pulled together some visual clues to guide you through this challenging ID. Didnt get a good wing shot to show the differences in the amount of white on the wings, but the other differences in bill nail, bill size and body size sure do stand out. First, a bit more background. Lesser scaup females show the characteristic darker iris (bright yellow in greater scaup males and females) at closer distances. I purposely didn't mention it in my post, but photos 1 and 2 showed the same individual from two different angles. Type in your search and hit Enter on desktop or hit Go on mobile device, “The views expressed in user comments do not reflect the views of Audubon. . Apr 2, 2013 - Greater Scaup Vs. During winter, location can be a deciding factor. Greater Scaup. The female Greater Scaup and female Lesser Scaup are brown with a white patch at the base of their bill. These 5 Threatened Places Could Be Spared Under Biden, Top Wins for Birds 2020: State Efforts to Address Climate Change. Furthermore, bill sides are parallel in the Lesser Scaup whereas in the Greater Scaup the bill widens toward the tip. Wing Pattern: If seen in flight, the amount of white on the wings can help birders tell the difference between scaups. They prefer territories near deeper, more permanent wetlands with emergent vegetation such as bulrushes, which often hold abundant populations of aquatic insect larvae. Can be similar to immature male and female Tufted Duck, but note smoothly rounded head and more extensive white bill base patch in females. Though a scarce breeding bird in Britain, it is much more regular in winter, when numbers are boosted by continental migrants. If you see 8 to 11 chicks, well, it was worth a shot. Lesser scaup can be found in a wider range of habitats, including smaller lakes, and the majority of these birds winter in the Mississippi Flyway, with 30 percent passing farther east across the Great Lakes into the Atlantic Flyway. Other articles where Greater scaup is discussed: pochard: In the greater scaup (A. marila), a white stripe extends nearly to the wing tip; in the lesser scaup (A. affinis), the wing stripe is about half as long. Spread the word. … The Greater breeds primarily in the far north on tundra lakes and ponds. During migration and winter, Lesser Scaup form large flocks on lakes, bays, rivers, and larger wetlands. Their diets are also alike, though the Lesser Scaup eats more greens due to its freshwater preferences. Size is one, as lesser scaup are about 20 percent smaller than greater scaup. Still, there’s quite a bit of overlap in their ranges, especially in the summer when Greaters hang out in lakes and bogs, in addition to their regular seaside dives. And if you see a brood of babies with an adult, count them up: Lessers should have 8 to 14, while Greaters should have 5 to 11. But greater scaup have white on their primary and secondary feathers extending nearly to the tip of the wing, while lesser scaup only have white on their secondaries. Scaups gather in huge flocks offshore in winter and dive for shellfish (hence scaup, from scallop). Lesser vs. Lesser and greater scaup are often found together. Greater scaup are primarily tundra breeders and winter in coastal areas. The light band near the trailing edges of the wings runs almost to the tip in the greater scaup, but only about half way in the lesser. Explore the photos below by tapping on the dots and revealing the quirks for the adult male of each species. You know, those diving ducks that are black on the ends and white in the middle? Had great views of this new arrival at Pennington yesterday, it is fully winged, un-ringed and structurally pretty good, but I have a nagging doubt over the extent of the white in the outer wing - see below. The differences in head shape hold true for females and juveniles, too. Both the male and the female have a short white stripe on their wings. Lesser and greater scaup are counted together in annual aerial surveys because the two species are hard to distinguish at a distance. But other scholars credit the drake's discordant scaup, scaup call as the name's source. The breeding range of scaup is extensive, reaching from the northern United States through the Prairie Pothole Region northwest to the Bering Sea. The Description states that the Greater Scaup is larger than the Lesser Scaup, and that sentence has two references. While no single cause for this decline has been found, DU is working to protect and restore habitats that are important throughout the scaup's annual cycle, including key breeding areas such as the western boreal forest, important migration areas like the Great Lakes, and southern wintering areas such as the Gulf Coast. 01:07 © Jay McGowan | Macaulay Library The smaller size of the lesser scaup is very obvious. The greater scaup is also slightly larger and has a flatter top of the head. Heads, wings, and feet of Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis) and Greater Scaup (Aythya marila) were obtained from 365 birds killed by hunters to investigate differences in structural size and in the intensity and extent of the white wing stripe. The bird is smaller in size than the Greater Scaup. Great advice chart! The largest breeding population occurs in Canada's western boreal forest.

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