Lesser Scaup

Waterfowl Identification

The Lesser Scaup, Aythya affinis, drake has a black head with a purplish sheen, gray bill with a black tip, black breast with white flanks and a black rump. The back is mottled with black and white. The hen has a brown head and breast and white at the base of her black tipped gray bill. The Lesser Scaup nests near prairie wetlands.
Image comparing drake and hen/UISFWS Image comparing Greater and lesser scaup/UISFWS

Except for the wing marks, greater and lesser scaup appear nearly identical in the field. The light band near the trailing edges of the wings runs almost to the tip in the greater scaup, but only about half way in the lesser. Greater scaup prefer large open water areas; lesser scaup often use marshes and ponds.

Both species migrate late, sometimes just before freezeup. Flock movements are rapid, often erratic, usually in compact groups.

Length: 17"
Weight: 2 7/8 lbs.

Image comparing drake and hen wings/USFWS


 Distribution Map

Similar Species

In Flight
In flight illustration/USFWS In flight illustration/USFWS In flight illustration/USFWS

Hens are silent; drake lesser scaup purr; drake greater scaup have a discordant scaup, scaup.

Last Updated: November 27, 2018