Thursday, January 3, 2013

Lesser Scaup

To jump start our 2013 birdlist, on New Year’s Day, Erika and I drove over to Prescott, Wisconsin, on the opposite shore from Dakota Co., Minnesota. We saw nothing unusual, but not for the lack of trying. Perhaps our “best” bird were these ducks, which I presume to be Lesser Scaup. In the first two photos of the same male, you can see that the head is not round, but somewhat crested—usually a fairly reliable field mark for Lesser Scaup. In the first photo, note that only the underwing over the secondary feathers is white. I think a Greater Scaup would have the white extending onto the primary feathers.
In my experience, Lesser Scaup are have duskier sides than Greaters. The third photo is of a female that hung close by the male. In all three photos, the black nail at the tip of the bill is small and relatively inconspicuous. I have previously discussed scaup identification problems in my blog last April. Lesser Scaup winter further north than Greaters, which prefer more open and salt water, and are usually encountered in the winter in coastal habitats (Sibley). Janssen considers the Lesser Scaup to be a winter straggler in Minnesota, but indicates the Lesser is more likely to be encountered in the winter than is the Greater. Unfortunately for my 2013 Minnesota bird list, these ducks swam well within Wisconsin waters.

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