Scaups- Greater or Lesser?

2012_03_11 DSCF7293  S. Pasadena, FL

2012_03_11 DSCF7297 S. Pasadena, FL

Can you tell the difference between Greater and Lesser Scaups?  It confuses me.  -SLB

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5 responses to “Scaups- Greater or Lesser?

  1. My guess is that these are Lesser Scaup. The Lesser has a peaked head shape, which is fairly evident in the close-up picture of the pair. The Greater has a more rounded head. These two birds are very difficult to ID.

  2. I had the same thoughts as Jo, because of the peaked heads on the close up. So hard to tell these 2 apart!

  3. I’ve noticed (not sure how scientific this is?) that Lesser Scaup (which I believe these to be) have a more purplish hue to their faces (males) whilst the Greater Scaup have a more greenish tinge – thus…
    Lesser = Lilac
    Greater = Green.
    The bird in your picture above definitely has a ‘lilac’ colouration.

  4. Although there is a difference in the hue of the male’s head (Greater vs. Lesser), both species can appear to have a purplish head in the right lighting conditions. Even the shape of the head can be deceiving, depending on if they are at rest or not. The bill is another indicator (especially when close): in this case, I find the bottom bird’s bill to be quite long relative to the head, so this could be a Greater.
    Having said all this and having seen both species side by side in Vancouver (lots of ducks here!), I can say that the only definitive way to tell these two species apart is to be able to see both in the same area at the same tiem; the size difference is quite evident.
    I will post a picture I took this winter in Vancouver’s Stanley Park of a Lesser Scaup. In this case, you will notice that the hue of the head is rather greenish, but the bill seems smaller.

  5. I read the same thing, Pierre, about trying to use color to ID these two birds….as my nephew Robert tells me, “Does it matter which is which?” Well, perhaps not, but I like the challenge.