Greater Scaup

Aythya marila

Quick Facts

  • Species

    Native

  • Habitat

    Greater scaups live on lakes, ponds and bays. During the winter, they stay near marine waters.

  • Range

    In North America, greater scaups breed in northern Canada, but migrate down through the region, where they winter on the eastern coasts of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

  • Diet

    Crustaceans, mollusks and aquatic plants and insects

  • Status

    Stable

The greater scaup visits the east coast of the Chesapeake region during the winter. Females are brown with a white patch on their face, and males are white with a dark rump and head.

Appearance

The greater scaup is a medium-sized diving duck with a dark head and bluish bill. They average between 15.4 and 22 inches in length, and weigh between1.6 and three pounds.

Females are brown in color with a white patch on their face and at the base of their bill. Their head and neck are dark brown with some lighter molting and their belly is white.

Breeding males have a black neck, upper back and breast. Their head is also black but with a green iridescence. Their back is white or gray and covered with thin, black wavy lines. They have a black rump and white belly and sides. When they’re not breeding, males look more like the females.

Nonbreeding males and juveniles look similar to adult females.

Feeding

Greater scaups dive underwater to capture clams, snails, seeds and aquatic plants and insects.

Voice

Females make a hoarse, raspy “arr-arr” sound, while males make a soft, fast whistle.

National Audubon Society – Bird Song Collection

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Breeding occurs in late winter and early spring. Female greater scaups are in charge of choosing nesting sites and building the nests. They do this by creating bowl-shaped depressions in grassy areas, which they then line with grasses and a thick layer of down that they plucks from themselves.

Nests usually contain seven to nine eggs. The female leads her young to water shortly after they hatch. Young feed themselves and are capable of flight 40 to 45 days after hatching.

Did You Know?

  • The oldest recorded greater scaup was a male that was at least 20 years. He was found in Michigan in 2007 and had been banded in New York in 1998.
  • Unlike its smaller cousin, the lesser scaup, the greater scaup can be found across Eurasia as well as North America.
  • The greater scaup is also known as the “bluebill” in North America, and just “scaup” in Europe.

Sources and Additional Information

Quick Facts

  • Species

    Native

  • Habitat

    Greater scaups live on lakes, ponds and bays. During the winter, they stay near marine waters.

  • Range

    In North America, greater scaups breed in northern Canada, but migrate down through the region, where they winter on the eastern coasts of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

  • Diet

    Crustaceans, mollusks and aquatic plants and insects

  • Status

    Stable