Lesser Scaup

lesser scaupThe Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis) is the most abundant diving duck in North America. Lesser scaup are the North American counterpart to the Old World tufted duck. Depending on where you’re hunting in the US, you’ll hear several nicknames to include blackheads, bluebills or dogris (pronounced doe-gree). Drake scaup display monochromatic color scheme, finely vermiculated plumage, bold yellow irises and the blue-bills from which they’ve derived their colloquial moniker.  Upperwings are dark, very finely vermiculated; secondaries are white. Both sexes have blue gray bills tipped with black, however the hen has a much darker color. Both have short, gray legs and feet. Hen scaup have white plumage around their bill and a gray brown head. The drake has a black head that extends to the chest, a white underbelly, and white and gray vermiculated body plumage. The hen also shows this white underbelly however has chestnut plumage covering the rest.

While both are referred to as blue-bills, following are a few clues for differentiating between lesser scaup and relatively less abundant greater scaup. Both have white secondary bands, but the white is limited only to the secondaries in lesser scaup. In greater scaup, this white band extends into the primaries. In hand, the black head sheen is  purplish on lesser scaup but a greenish on greater scaup. Greater scaup bills are slightly wider, giving rise to the colloquial nickname “broadbill.”