My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Greater Scaup, Aythya marila

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Greater Scaup, Aythya marila

The Greater Scaup (Aythya marila), just Scaup in Europe, or colloquially “Bluebill” in North America for its bright blue bill, is a mid-sized diving duck though it is larger than the closely related Lesser Scaup. It is a circumpolar species, which means that its range circles one of Earth’s poles. It spends the summer months breeding in Alaska, northern Canada, Siberia, and the northernmost reaches of Europe. During the winter, it migrates south down the coasts of North America, Europe, and Japan.

Drake Greater Scaup are larger and have more rounded heads than females; they have a bright blue bill and yellow eyes. They have dark heads with a glossy green tint, white undersides and wings with white on the tips. The females are mostly brown, with white bands located on their wingtips. They have a blue bill that is slightly duller then the drake’s.

Greater Scaup nest near water, typically on islands in northern lakes or on floating mats of vegetation. They begin breeding at age two, but start building nests in the first year. The drakes have a complex courtship procedure, which takes place on the return migration to the summer breeding grounds and concludes with the formation of monogamous pairs. Females lay a clutch of six to nine olive-buff colored eggs. The eggs hatch in 24 to 28 days. The down-covered ducklings are able to follow their mother in her search for food immediately after hatching.

Greater Scaup eat aquatic mollusks, plants, and insects, which they obtain by diving underwater. They form large groups, called “rafts”, that can number in the thousands. Their main threat is human development, although they are preyed upon by owls, skunks, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, and humans.

On to the photos:

Male greater scaup

Male greater scaup

Male greater scaup

Male greater scaup

Male greater scaup

Male greater scaup

Male greater scaup

Male greater scaup

Male greater scaup

Male greater scaup

Female greater scaup

Female greater scaup

Greater scaup

Greater scaup

Greater scaup

Greater scaup

Greater scaup

Greater scaup

Greater scaup

Greater scaup

This is number 37 in my photo life list, only 313 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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5 responses

  1. It sounds like these birds would be in the same places that loons like. I’m finding out just how many birds I haven’t seen!

    February 22, 2013 at 6:15 am

    • That makes two of us! I thought that many of the species on the list I’m working from would be difficult to find, and I know that I’ll get to that point some day. But, so far, so good.

      February 22, 2013 at 8:45 am

  2. Look very similar to Tufted ducks from far, very difficult to ID without closeups I guess!

    February 27, 2013 at 3:06 am

    • Thanks, I don’t think that tufted ducks are native to this area.

      February 27, 2013 at 3:19 am

      • Oh, I am from India and have Tufted ducks here but no Northern Scaups. Wonder if both were to be found at one place 😀

        February 27, 2013 at 3:21 am