Living Bird Magazine
Lesser ScaupAythya affinis
- ORDER: Anseriformes
- FAMILY: Anatidae
Tight-knit groups of Lesser Scaup congregate on large lakes, reservoirs, and estuaries during migration and winter, sometimes by the thousands. From afar flocks might just look like floating mats of vegetation on the water. A closer look reveals black-and-white males and chocolatey-brown females floating on the surface and diving below to eat aquatic invertebrates and plants. The devilishly similar Greater Scaup often joins the group too, but the Lesser Scaup wears a tiny peaked hat that sits towards the back of the head, unlike the Greater Scaup's rounded head.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Getting a look at a Lesser Scaup means heading out to a body of water. During the nonbreeding season (September through March) they use large lakes such as the Great Lakes, but also smaller wetlands. On larger bodies of water look for large groups of ducks that at a distance may look like a dark mat of floating vegetation. In the southern United States, Lesser Scaup often use agricultural ponds. Because of their watery habits and their lookalike cousin the Greater Scaup, it's useful to have a spotting scope (or join a bird club outing where the trip leader is likely to bring one). It takes practice to pick out the different head shapes of Lesser and Greater Scaup (see ID section). It's okay to record Greater/Lesser Scaup on your checklist if you are unsure of the ID.
- Porrón Bola (Spanish)
- Petit Fuligule (French)
- Cool Facts
- Lesser Scaup chicks don't waste any time. As soon as their down dries, under the water they go. The little ones are a bit too buoyant to stay down for long, but by the time they are 5 to 7 weeks old, they can dive for up to 25 seconds and swim up to 60 feet underwater.
- Lesser Scaup spend the winter farther south than any other diving duck in their genus (Aythya)—some go as far south as Central America and the Caribbean.
- In lakes or wetlands with a lot of tiny crustaceans called amphipods that float about in the water, Lesser Scaup often look like they are doing somersaults or other odd acrobatics as they try to pick off the amphipods that cling to their belly feathers as they swim through the water.
- Lesser Scaup is the most abundant diving duck in North America, with a global breeding population estimated at 3.8 million.
- The oldest recorded Lesser Scaup was a male at least 18 years old.