Wildlife

I’m Not a Decoy!

This is a breeding lesser Scaup Male.

The oldest recorded Lesser Scaup was a male at least 18 years old. Lesser Scaup is the most abundant diving duck in North America, with a global breeding population estimated at 3.8 million.

Lesser Scaup chicks don’t waste any time. As soon as their down dries, under the water they go. The little ones are a bit too buoyant to stay down for long, but by the time they are 5 to 7 weeks old, they can dive for up to 25 seconds and swim up to 60 feet underwater.

Tight-knit groups of Lesser Scaup congregate on large lakes, reservoirs, estuaries and the Gulf of Mexico during migration and winter, sometimes by the thousands. From afar flocks might just look like floating mats of vegetation on the water. A closer look reveals black-and-white males and chocolatey-brown females floating on the surface and diving below to eat aquatic invertebrates and plants. The devilishly similar Greater Scaup often joins the group too, but the Lesser Scaup wears a tiny peaked hat that sits towards the back of the head, unlike the Greater Scaup’s rounded head.

Lesser Scaup nest on the ground in tall vegetation in prairies, hayfields, fresh and brackish marshes, and lakes with sedges, bulrushes, and cattails. Sometimes females build nests on floating mats of vegetation. The nest is always well concealed by vegetation.

Females make a small depression on the ground and slowly add grasses, other plant material, and downy feathers to make a saucer-shaped nest. Unlike other birds, females start laying eggs before the nest is complete, and continues to build the nest while she is laying eggs.

Pictures by Jeff

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1 Comment

  1. Malibooze
    April 18, 2018 at 3:11 am — Reply

    What a fantastic article. You continue to bring current migratory and indigenous profiles to us thanks for the info and photos my friend.

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