Monday, January 9, 2012

Diminutive Diver--The Lesser Scaup

Depending on the season, the Lesser Scaup can be found in freshwater lakes, ponds, and marshes throughout all of North and Central America. Even with the somewhat diminutive name, they're one of the most abundant and probably the most widespread species of duck in the United States. Despite the possible banality that can come with such a common creature, I only see Scaup during the winter time and, for some reason, much less frequently than many other wintering ducks, so I still find them to be pretty fun.

Their coloration combines elements of Ring-Necked Ducks and Greater Scaup, and if it isn't quite as jaw-dropping as the plumage of say, a Mandarin Duck, there's something inescapably pleasant about the Lesser Scaup's smooth features. Just look at the up-turn there at the base of the bill--the bird is caught in a permanent smile.

The unfortunate blurriness of this photo aside, you can see both the similarities and differences between Lesser Scaup and the Ring-Necked Ducks. The purple shows through on the Ring-Necked, and the back is a solid black, while the Scaup's sides are a brighter white. The white and black at the tip of the Ring-Necked Duck's bill are very prominent, and it is perhaps demonstrative of the Lesser Scaup's personality that he lets the more boldly colored ducks steal the show.

But take him for granted and PLOOP!

He's gone, diving for edibles and planning his re-emergence with all the confidence one might sooner expect of a Greater Scaup!

A classy duck and a gentleman of the ponds, the Lesser Scaup is a welcome addition to any winter waterfowl entourage.

Here is the lovely lady.