A Greater Scaup is a fun bird to see while bird watching. Below are some tips to help you identify Greater Scaups. We have also put together a list of fun Greater Scaup t-shirts, Greater Scaup bird patches, birdhouses, bird feeders, binoculars, stickers, and other fun bird-watching items.
About Greater Scaups
Greater Scaup (Aythya Marila) colloquially referred to as the “bluebill” is a medium-sized diving bird that is found across the Northern regions of Europe and Asia. During migration (February- April, and October-November) they flock at large lakes and during the winter season, they move towards coastal waters. It spends its summers in Northern Canada, Alaska, Siberia, and Northern points of Europe.
Description and Identification
Greater Scaups are medium-sized ducks that are 15.3 – 22.1 inches long with a wingspan
around 28.4 – 31.1 inches. They have rounded heads that distinguish them from the closely
related Lesser Scaups. These ducks exhibit high degrees of sexual dimorphism, with
breeding males, non-breeding males, and females exhibiting variations in their plumages.
Breeding males have black and white plumages with an iridescent green sheen on the head
that is highlighted by their light blue beaks and yellow eyes. They have white backs that are
very thinly barred by black, with white wings and black tails. Females are brown all over and
have a darker brown head with a white patch next to the bill, with the patch being of variable
sizes. Non-breeding males tend to resemble both breeding males and females by having
mottled brown-and-gray bodies with dark brown to blackheads.
Greater Scaup Color Pattern
When observed from a distance, the male Greater Scaup appears black and white. However, at close ranges, their plumage has a more iridescent green shine on its rounded head. Its bill is bluish and it has a very distinct yellow eye. Females have a darker brown plumage on their heads and a white patch around their bill.
Greater Scaup Size
Greater Scaups are medium sized ducks; the relative size for both sexes is:
- Length: 15.3-22.1 in (39-56 cm)
- Weight: 25.6-48.0 oz (726-1360 g)
- Wingspan: 28.4-31.1 in (72-79 cm)
Greater Scaup Behavior
- During winter, the Greater Scaup tend to move in tight large groups sometimes containing thousands of other birds migrating on lakes, larger wetlands, and bays.
- This bird gets its name from their “scaup scaup” calls.
Greater Scaup Food
Greater Scaups mainly eat aquatic invertebrates like mollusks, insects, and small
crustaceans. They can dive up to 20 feet deep and can stay underwater for almost a minute
to reach for food sources that are harder to obtain. However, they tend to forage in waters
less than 7 feet deep unless food shortages drive them to deeper waters. They also consume vegetation and will eat seeds, leaves, stems, sedges, and roots of pondweeds,
musk grass, and wild celery. These ducks primarily forage during the day but can forage at
night if a human disturbance is too high.
This diving duck forages for food underwater. Their diet consists of mollusks, tubers of aquatic plants, leaves, stems, and roots.
Greater Scaup Habitat
The summer habitat of these ducks is mainly marshy lowland tundra and islands in
freshwater lakes. They breed in shallow lakes and ponds in treeless wetlands and are drawn
towards areas that have the high ground. Ideal breeding sites provide sufficient protection
against the wind, areas with shallow water, and abundant vegetation and prey. The winter
months take them towards coastal bays and shorelines, estuaries, and inland lakes. Almost
70% of the Greater Scaup population of North America is found along the Atlantic coast, with
20% spending their winters along the Pacific coast and the remaining 10% found along lakes
Ordinarily, during the breeding season, you will find the Greater Scaup on ponds, lakes, and bays. During the winter season, they tend to inhabit coastal lagoons, bays, and estuaries.
Range and Migration
Greater Scaups are diving ducks that are found in the hundreds and thousands along the
Atlantic and Pacific coasts during winter. These mid-sized ducks are closely related to
Lesser Scaups, a similar species that differ only in their peaked heads. Greater Scaups
have a circumpolar distribution, meaning that they breed within the Arctic Circle and hence
often include regions of both the old world and the new world in their migration patterns.
They breed in north-western Canada, Alaska, Siberia, and most of Northern Europe. Their
winter migrations begin in fall and take them towards the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of North
America, extending from northern British Columbia to the Baja Peninsula, and from New
Brunswick to Florida. They are also frequently found wintering by inland lakes across the
The United States.
Greater Scaup Life Cycle
The female typically lays 5 to 13 olive buff eggs in nests that are lined depressions on the ground. Once the female begins incubating the eggs for 23 to 28 days, the male leaves her in the nest. The hatched ducklings are led to the water where they then begin to fend for themselves. They take flight at 40 to 45 days old.
Greater Scaup Nesting
The nesting sites are typically by the water’s edge in areas with a dense growth of grasses
and sedges. Areas tend to either be on solid ground or on floating mats of vegetation close
to the solid ground. A small depression is made by the females to form the structure, which
is then lined with downy feathers, grasses, roots, leaves, and other plant material to make a
saucer-shaped nest. These ducks can have between 5 – 13 eggs in a single brood each
Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes
At Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.
Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Greater Scaups
The most common types of bird-watching binoculars for viewing Greater Scaups are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.
Greater Scaup T-shirts
If you love the Greater Scaup you should purchase a Bird Watching Academy & Camp T-shirt. To help support bird conservation we donate 10 percent to bird conservation activities.
Greater Scaup Iron On Patches
Kids, Youth, and Adults love to collect our Bird Watching Academy & Camp iron-on patches. Our bird-watching patches help you keep track of the birds you have seen and identified. You can also display the patches on our Bird Watching Academy & Camp banners.
The Greater Scaup is a great iron-on patch to start your collection with. The patches are durable and can be sewn on or ironed on to just about anything.
Greater Scaup Stickers
Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Greater Scaup. We sell a monthly subscription sticker pack. The sticker packs have 12 bird stickers. These sticker packs will help your kids learn new birds every month.
Bird Feeders for Greater Scaups
There are many types of bird feeders. Here are our favorite bird feeders for your backyard. We use all of these bird feeders currently. Kids will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. Using this collection of bird feeders will provide a wide variety and many types of birds.
Best Bird Houses for Greater Scaups
There are many types of birdhouses. Building a birdhouse is always fun but can be frustrating. These 4 birdhouses have become our favorites. Getting a birdhouse for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. We spent a little extra money on these birdhouses but they have been worth the higher price and look great.