Lesser Scaup

photo by Phil Swanson

Aythya affinis
L 16 1/2″(42 cm).

Song or calls:
Courting males will give a cooing whistle. Females, a low “arrr.”

Description:  Male white sides, gray back, black breast and tail, purple sheen on head as opposed to green on Greater Scaup.  Peaked crown (Greater Scaup head is rounded).  Female brown with white patch at base of bill.  In flight, both sexes show a white stripe only on secondaries, shorter than Greater Scaup.

Bird Map
Habitat: Migrants occupy deeper marshes, lakes, and reservoirs. Breeding birds prefer prairie marshes that are surrounded by lightly wooded uplands.  Marshes with large populations of amphipods are especially favored.

Where in Nebraska: Common to abundant spring and fall migrant across the state.  Occasionally summers in Sandhills.  Only breeding records from Crescent Lake NWR.  Will winter if open water is present.

Fun Facts:

  • Lesser and Greater Scaups are often called “Bluebills”, because of, naturally, their bill color.
  • Lesser Scaup chicks can dive underwater (albeit briefly) the day they are hatched.

Lesser Scaup - NEBRASKAland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Lesser Scaup - photo by Phil Swanson
(click image for larger view)