One waterfowl species that is characteristic of winter in the Mid-Atlantic region is the lesser scaup. Like the greater scaup of the same genus, the lesser scaup is a species of bays and open water. Unlike mallards and other dabbling ducks, scaup do not tip over to find food underwater. Rather they dive for short periods of time to snatch aquatic invertebrates and plants.
Lesser scaup and greater scaup can be difficult to separate. The best way to identify the two is by the shape of the head and bill. Lesser scaup have a peaked crown at the back of their heads, while greater scaup have a more rounded head. Greater scaup also have a wider bill with a bigger nail. Some sources suggest that lesser scaup have duller, grayer colors, and more purplish heads; greater scaup have brighter colors and greener heads. The field marks based on coloration are generally less reliable, as colors can appear differently under different light conditions.
Large flocks of scaup congregate on the Potomac River and in the Washington Channel during January and February.
- For more animals, see The Modulator's Friday Ark.