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Scaups are tough for me, and this one has had me waffling back and forth between greater and lesser for a week. This was taken in south-western OR a few days ago (Grants Pass area) at my favorite birding park. We get both Greaters and Lesser wintering here, though the former is usually outnumbered about 6-1 by the later and relatively uncommon. The ruffled "tuft" of feathering at the back of the heard should indicate Lesser, but the large bill and forehead shape just give me Greater vibes. There were about 6 Lessers there that were clear to ID, but this one has perplexed me. Anyone able to help me settle?


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Funny...this isn't going to help.  I'm leaning greater because of the huge bill and cheeks.  Don't feel bad for waffling, this has characteristics of both.  Good discussion bird.

 

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1 hour ago, Tony Leukering said:

This is an immature, so head shape is suspect. However, I'd go with Lesser. I assume that it was actively diving, yes?

Yes, it was diving actively. I got these shots about a minute apart during a short (about five minute) break it took from diving, when it was meandering across the pond to rejoin the Lesser Scaup flock; but except for that, it spent most of its time under water. I was in the rain half an hour trying to decide what it was, but really only got that one opportunity to study it for more than a few seconds at a time.

I'm actually relieved to know it's actually a legitimately challenging scaup, and not just me!

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11 hours ago, Phalarope713 said:

I'd say Lesser based on lack of black nail at bill tip and peaked crown.

It doesn't show on these shots, but it did have a black nail tip. It's obviously not an especially pronounced one, but it's there. I can look for a shot that shows it if it'd help.

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So I believe I found the same scaup again today, feeding oddly enough in a fly casting pond at the same park from a week ago. Conditions were better, and I was able to get a couple closer photos.

A lot of things about this scaup are still inconclusive to me, but that head profile sure looks like greater and the bill is quite broad. 


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5 hours ago, Tony Leukering said:

That is a *very* informative article, thank you. The scaup in the later case-study images seems to be a comparable example to the one here. 

So if I am following correctly, the argument for Lesser would be a somewhat shallow angle of the jowls meeting the head visible in the frontal shot? 

That's certainly a new field mark to me, but I can kind of see that now that I'm re-comparing to Sibley's scaup diagrams. What still confuses me when looking at those drawings though is how slender the depicted Lesser's head is compared to the Greater. Based simply on Sibley's and without considering the angles, I would have thought the head was too broad for Lesser. Is it fair to say that the Sibley's comparison is a bit exaggerated for emphasis?

 

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