Answer to the scaup quiz

Andy McGannGeneral News and Info, quiz birds3 Comments

And the answer to yesterday’s video quiz is….


However, the results of the voting were a statistical tie!

Lesser Scaup   – 32 votes
Greater Scaup – 31 votes
not sure – 2 votes

But why is it a Lesser Scaup??

Well, this was a very tough case indeed. And it goes to show that scaup are actually easier to ID when they are relaxed. This bird was actively foraging and diving, and the crown did not appear as peaked as it otherwise could have, given that its crown feathers weren’t very puffed up. However, you can still get a sense of a notch at the back of the crown, where it would otherwise be more peaked. Lesser’s also have a larger/taller head size, in proportion to their body. Additionally, the barring pattern on the scapulars is courser than on a Greater. Although not always helpful in an ID situation, it’s useful to recall that Lesser Scaup should be the “default” scaup species on small freshwater ponds. Greater should be thought of as the default species on brackish or saltwater habitats.

But this serves as a reminder to acknowledge the limitations of our ID abilities, as well as take any opportunities to study a cooperative bird at length.

To see the video again, click here. Thanks for playing!

  • Anne

    How true is it that a Greater Scaup has a greater contrast on it’s side, being more white, than a Lesser which appears more grey? Thanks

    • It is definitely noticeable on some birds, especially when you have mixed flocks. However the difference can be more difficult to discern when you are only looking at one bird. 

  • Art Schiavo

    Yeah………..I got it right!!!  One thing I looked for and did not see was the black mark at the tip of the bill which would favor greater scaup….also, darker and less contrasting sides led me to lesser as well.