The lesser scaup is a medium-sized diving duck with a peaked crown on its head and a blue bill. Drakes (males) have dark, purple-colored heads, white sides and yellow eyes. Hens (females) have dark brown backs, brown sides, white bellies and a white ring around their bills. They are smaller than greater scaups, have a thinner nail (tip of their bill) and have a less prominent strip of white at the bottom of their wings.


As a diving duck, the lesser scaup dives underwater and searches for food—typically aquatic insects and mollusks such as clams and snails. In shallow water, lesser scaups can be seen dabbling, which is when they turn face down in the water and forage with their tails air up in the air.


Lesser scaups migrate in medium-sized flocks and will fly low over the water in search of food.


Lesser scaups are more vocal during breeding season when they’ve yet to migrate to the Bay.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Lesser scaups begin breeding at around 2 years of age. After finding mates they form nests on dry land close to the water. Young leave the nest shortly after hatching and within just a few weeks will start diving underwater for food. They begin flying typically within 50 days.

Did You Know?

  • Colloquially, scaups are known as bluebills
  • Lesser scaups will gather in large groups with canvasbacks, redheads and other diving ducks.
  • Lesser scaups spend the winter farther south than any other diving duck in their genus. Some go as far south as Central America and the Caribbean.
  • Lesser scaups are one of the most abundant diving ducks in North America

Sources and Additional Information