Living Bird Magazine
Greater ScaupAythya marila
- ORDER: Anseriformes
- FAMILY: Anatidae
The only circumpolar diving duck, the Greater Scaup breeds across the tundra regions in North America and Europe. They congregate by the hundreds and thousands along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts during winter. Here, black-and-white males and chocolatey-brown females bob along on the waves. They look remarkably similar to the Lesser Scaup, with only slight differences in head shape: the Greater Scaup has a rounded head, the Lesser Scaup a peaked head. These underwater divers eat aquatic invertebrates and plants at the bottom of lakes and bays.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Getting a look at a Greater Scaup often means heading to the coast. During migration (roughly February–April and October–November) they use large lakes such as the Great Lakes, but they tend to concentrate on coastal waters during the winter. They also tend to congregate in homogenous, single species rafts. Because of their tendency to sit far from shore, and their lookalike cousin the Lesser 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 eBird checklist if you are unsure of the ID.
- Porrón Bastardo (Spanish)
- Fuligule milouinan (French)
- Cool Facts
- Occasionally an older female Greater Scaup will have male-like head color and male patterning on her back, but she still has the typical white face patch of a female.
- Once incubation begins, the male Greater Scaup leaves the female and goes to molt on a relatively large, isolated lake with abundant food and cover. These lakes are used year after year during molt and may be in the immediate vicinity of the breeding wetlands or many miles away.
- The nest of a Greater Scaup is usually lined with a thick layer of down plucked by the mother from her own breast. Nests of poor-condition females may lack down and instead may contain small, grayish-white feathers plucked from beneath the outer body feathers.
- Eggs and ducklings fall prey to predators such as gulls, foxes, and ravens. In some areas, northern pike (fish) also eat ducklings.
- The oldest recorded Greater Scaup was a male, and at least 20 years, 5 months old when he was found in Michigan in 2007. He had been banded in New York in 1988.