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Lesser Scaup

Basic Description

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
image of range map for Lesser Scaup
Range map provided by Birds of the World
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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.

Other Names

  • Porrón Bola (Spanish)
  • Petit Fuligule (French)
  • Cool Facts