0f876500 cf35 460d 8e30 aaa5707679e2

Description of the Lesser Scaup


The Lesser Scaup is a diving duck slightly smaller than a Redhead, and has a bluish-gray bill with a small black tip, and a crown that is peaked at the rear.

Males have white flanks, gray upperparts, and a purplish-black head.  Length: 16 in.  Wingspan: 25 in.

lesser scaup


lesser scaup3 gb
Female in the middle, other 2 images are males.   Photographs © Glenn Bartley.


lesser scaup m flt under gb

Photograph © Glenn Bartley.


Females have brownish flanks and upperparts, a brown head, and a white patch at the base of the bill.

lesser scaup

lesser scaup f trans under gb
Photograph © Glenn Bartley.



lesser scaup f trans top gb
Photograph © Glenn Bartley.

Seasonal change in appearance

Males in nonbreeding plumage are similar but browner.


The immature Lesser Scaup is similar to the adult female.


Lesser Scaup inhabit lakes, marshes, and estuaries.


Lesser Scaup primarily eat mollusks, insects, and plant material.


The Lesser Scaup dives in shallow water to forage, or dabbles in shallow water.


Lesser Scaup occur throughout most of the U.S. and Canada, breeding in northwestern portions of the U.S. north to Alaska, and wintering across a broad swath of the central and southern U.S., as well as the Pacific, Gulf, and Atlantic Coasts. The population is generally large and stable.

More information:

Bent Life History

Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the Lesser Scaup.

Wing Shape

The shape of a bird's wing is often an indication of its habits and behavior. Fast flying birds have long, pointed wings. Soaring birds have long, broad wings. Different songbirds will have a slightly different wing shape. Some species look so much alike (Empidonax flycatchers) that scientists sometimes use the length of specific feathers to confirm a species' identification.

Wing images from the University of Puget Sound, Slater Museum of Natural History

Fun Facts

The Lesser Scaup can occur in very large, single-species flocks during the winter.

The Lesser Scaup is one of the latest migrating ducks in the spring, and form pair bonds during migration.


Female Lesser Scaup give a bark, while males produce a whistle.


The Lesser Scaup’s nest is a depression lined with grasses and down, and placed on land or an island.

Number: Usually lay 7-9 eggs.
Color: Olive or buff.

Incubation and fledging:
The young hatch at about 21-27 days and leave the nest soon after hatching, but cannot fly for about 7-8 weeks.