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Another duck ID please

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I'm not a duck expert either and agree that this isn't a Redhead. This is a Greater Scaup. Likely a first winter female. Note the structure of the head, ochre flanks, dark iris, dark culmen, and a hint of dark nail. First winter LESC would be similar but smaller and more dainty in appearance.


Edited by DLecy
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45 minutes ago, AEH said:

Thanks for the detailed analysis DLecy.  I want to check with the local experts.  They are familiar with visitors over many years past.  Maybe they can verify ?

You're welcome. Please let me know if you hear anything different. I firmly believe this is a Scaup, and in all likelihood a Greater Scaup.

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On 11/23/2020 at 2:28 PM, DLecy said:

dark iris

This has little or no bearing on the topic; see here.


On 11/23/2020 at 2:28 PM, DLecy said:

hint of dark nail

The dark nail -- and with only the nail or the nail and areas only immediately adjacent to the nail being dark would rule out all female scaup. Here is an adult female GRSC.

A not-brief aside: This last caused/enabled me to learn something. After going through two pages of 50 photos each of Greater Scaup photos on the eBird/Macaulay photo archive sorted by "Best Quality" without coming across what I felt was an adult female, I finally looked at the former Birds of North America species accounts (now the Birds of the World species accounts) to see if adult female GRSC showed vermiculations on scapulars and side feathers that I had assumed in the past -- including in this venue -- were indications that such birds were immature males.

From BOW in plumage, Definitive Alternate (using old-style duck-plumage terminology), female:

"...with, especially on scapulars, white vermiculations on distal ends of feathers; rump dark; breast, sides, and flanks usually a warm brownish, lower feathers of breast often white edged, those of sides and flanks with paler brown borders; some brown feathers on sides and flanks vermiculated white distally...."

The above convinced me that the photo at the link I provided is an adult female. HOWEVER, this does not mean that it cannot be an immature male. The dark eye color identifies the bird as an immature; the bill color -- if it is a scaup -- identifies it as a male.

On 11/23/2020 at 1:38 PM, The Bird Nuts said:

Its head and back seem too dark

Upperparts color on female Redhead is somewhat variable, with the dark end encompassing the color of the bird in question, as here.

I've been avoiding responding to this the ID of this bird because I found it impossible to make a definitive ID of it for myself. The pattern of paler and darker areas on the head match that of a female scaup, particularly for a female Greater Scaup early in the plumage cycle (female Lessers tend not to achieve this pattern -- including the auriculars patch until much later in the plumage cycle; the cheek patch is NOT definitive for GRSC in the absolute sense!).

However, the head pattern is muted, with neither the ring around the bill nor the cheek patch being even close to white. I return to the BOW plumage account:

"Head and neck vary from buffy brownish to dark brown to essentially black with greenish sheen, except a wide white facial front extending around base of bill...."

I accept that there is variation in most plumage aspects of birds and that some small percentage of female GRSC might show buffy "facial fronts" where most show white. In fact, the shape of this bird's facial front is that of an immature male GRSC, with the paler color not including the chin, being nearly restricted to above the gape.

UNFORTUNATELY, this feature brings me back to the linked photo of what I termed an adult female GRSC, as the bird in that photo shows the reduced extent of white facial front that I have just argued is a feature of immature male GRSC.

This cycles back to the fact that I have avoided presenting an ID of this bird due to the fact that I am uncertain of the bird's ID. For a couple decades, I have thought that the shapes of Redhead and Greater Scaup were very similar, such that I was happy that their plumages were different enough to provide straightforward ID. This bird confuses. In plumage and bill coloration/pattern, it is more like a GRSC, perhaps an immature male GRSC. However, it just seems off to me, in some way that I have not been able to diagnose. I wonder what a Redhead x Greater Scaup would look like. The hybrid combo is known.

I have spent all this time and space to describe why I feel that lacking a topside photo of this bird's open wings, I am unwilling to hazard a guess, other than "Aythya sp."

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Good grief Tony, I didn't realize they allowed the unabridged version on this website!  Thanks for all the detail.  I was down at the lake again today and I'm pretty certain the attached are the same duck - all alone again and never closer than 50 yards.  I doubt they add anything except more confusion but ....

One of my local friends suggested Redhead, but is contacting a guru in New Jersey for an opinion.






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12 hours ago, AEH said:

The New Jersey guru leans toward immature female Greater Scaup.  I have to say, this one looks very similar:

https://search.macaulaylibrary.org/catalog?taxonCode=gresca&q=Greater Scaup - Aythya marila&age=i

BTW, that's a new bird for me ?

I screw up the link.  It should be:


There is also this one:


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