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Bird Sightings : Hebrides : Lesser Scaup

Hebrides bird sightings - Lesser Scaup
The lesser scaup is the bird on the right (with tufted ducks)

Lesser Scaup

Aythya affinis

Photograph © Terry Fountain
Coot Loch - Benbecula - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
18th March, 2007


Our Scaup photographs :

Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup
Game: ID the Scaup!


  • Lesser Scaup
  • Aythya affinis
  • UK: Accidental. 2 annual records BTO
  • WI: Vagrant. Very rare visitor (five or less records)
  • Breeds: Marsh ponds. North America (Alaska) , Western Canada
  • Winters: Lake rivers, coasts Pacific coast of North & South America (UK vagrant first record in 1987) One of latest migrants to head south each year
  • Diet: Diving duck: at 7 weeks old can dive for 25 seconds to 60 feet depth. Also some dabbling. Eats aquatic insects, molluscs, plants
  • Small duck (38-45cm long). Blue bill. Yellow eyes. Adult males dark (purple sheen), black breast, light-grey back, black tail, white below. Adult females white band base of bill, brown head & body.
    Smaller than the Greater Scaup and very similar, they often flock together
  • Similar birds: Greater Scaup , Tufted Duck, Ring-necked Duck (rare)


Two Lesser Scaup drakes were present on Coot Loch Benbecula in April 2007 they were in amongst 300 Greater Scaup which look very similar ...

I asked John Dempsey about distinguishing between the lesser scaup and scaup (greater)::

"Lesser Scaup are tricky - and some folk down here think I have got it wrong on my two pix (and they may well be right!), but basically they are smaller than Common Scaup, a lot less broad in the beam, with a smaller black nail on the bill. They ride higher in the water than most diving ducks as they're so small, and the head should show an angled rear crown, with a little peak. The bill should be concave and not as big as on a Scaup, and the white flanks shouldn't be the glaring white of a Common Scaup. The wing pattern is different too - but you have to get a good view to see that. The bird I watched was about the same size, or smaller than nearby Tufted Ducks, but the weather was pretty lousy... "

See those photographs at John's blog


"2 males (scaup) on Coot Loch and 2 lesser scaup, amongst about 300 birds on a very small out of the way Loch, needle in a hay stack!...."

Debbie and Brian


" Lessers have a very small amount of black at the tip, and a more concave shape bill, most so at the base.... the highest point of head is at the rear, and much more sloped at the front.....males flank feathers have fine grey vermiculations giving a clouded greyish appearance. (rear flank striping usually courser and visable.).... upper parts darker than greater scaup and more coarsely vermiculated...they sit higher in the water.."

based on Neill Hunt's notes


Terry Fountain sent us in several photographs taken of the ducks ducks on Coot Loch on the 18th March, 2007 including Lesser scaup and Scaup have a look if you would like the challenge of telling one from the other...



Lesser Scaup records in the Western Isles

Vagrant. Very rare visitor (five or less records)

The first Hebridean record was in 2001, there have been a few records since of birds wintering in the Uists, all drakes. Two were present on Coot Loch Benbecula in April 2007 in amongst 300 Greater Scaup...

The reports that I came across after 2001 were all from the period December - April (Lesser Scaup are one of the latest migrants to head South each year).


























(Chart source: Outer Hebrides Birds Checklist)




Male and female ducks and their collective nouns:

Some people use the word duck only for an adult female and drake for an adult male whilst others say hen and drake.

Waterfowl collective nouns (From WIKI):
waterfowl (on water) A raft
waterfowl A bunch of waterfowl
waterfowl (less than 30) A knob
ducks, swimming A paddling of ducks
waterfowl A plump
ducks, idle in water A raft of ducks
ducks, diving A dopping of ducks
ducks, on ground A badelynge of ducks
ducks, flying A flight, plump, or team of ducks
ducks A brace, bunch, flock, skein, sord, string, brace, flush




Other local bird photographs

Sources of information for the bird sightings section

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