Scaups an easy bag for hunters

In the hunter’s vocabulary, scaups are the “bluebills.”
There are two different species of scaups, but they are quite similar and hard to tell apart.
One description of both species is that they are “black at both ends, and white in the middle.”
This is a pretty good description for a distant observation but there are other ducks which fit it, too.
The two scaups are the Greater Scaup and the Lesser Scaup. They may look a lot alike, but their breeding areas are quite different.
The Lesser are quite widespread, although not really very abundant anywhere. They breed in most of the eastern part of the continent, and in the west, as well, but rather sparsely.
They breed here in Northern Ontario, around the major lakes, and in all sorts of marshy areas. They nest on the ground, never far from the water.
So the Scaups you see in the summer are very likely the Lesser species.
The Greater, however, usually nests far to the north, from about James Bay up. You will not likely see any of them in the summer, but you could very likely see them in the winter.
When they migrate, they tend to gather in large flocks—and now they can get all mixed up together. Small flocks may number from 30-50, but when they are really on the move, a flock of 30,000 or more is not really uncommon.
They also have a tendency to “raft” in the fall, especially on large bodies of water. Several thousand will stick close together in the water, forming a huge area of ducks.
Now, about the plumage of the Scaups. First, the females of both are almost identical. They are just about all brown, with a prominent white mark at the base of the bill, just ahead of the eye.
The males are quite similar to each other, as well, but the Lesser has a purple sheen on its head while the Greater has a green sheen.
The Greater also has a bit more white on its wings.
Since they get all mixed in hunting season, it doesn’t matter to hunters whether you can tell them apart or not.
During the fall migration, the Greaters tend to go from their northern breeding grounds southeast towards the Atlantic coast. Lots of them winter on the Great Lakes, and even on our smaller lakes here in the north.
The majority, however, are spread all the way from Newfoundland to Florida.
Lessers also winter in big numbers on the Atlantic, but hundreds of thousands go down the Mississippi flyway to the Gulf of Mexico and the southern states.
Scaups are a real boon to hunters in eastern North America.
Like some of the other small ducks, Scaups are expert divers—and they can stay under the water for a long time.
They also have another trick. They can swim along with only the beak sticking out of the water and you can’t see the duck at all.
The Greater Scaup (Aythya marila) is a circumpolar species, breeding in northern Europe and Asia, as well as on our continent.
The Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis), on the other hand, is strictly an American bird (its original name was the American Scaup).
These fairly small ducks fly quite fast, they zig and zag easily, and their entire flight seems to be fast and abrupt.
However, they apparently are quite easy to fool with decoys, so they form a good part of the bag of many of our northern duck hunters.

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