The Aythya Affinis is one of the most abundant diving ducks in the Northwest. Male Lesser Scaups have white flanks, black rumps and breasts, and lined gray backs. They have purplish-black, iridescent heads and yellow eyes. Their bills are light gray-blue. Males in non-breeding plumage have black heads and breasts, brown bodies, and black rumps. Females are brownish overall, also with yellow eyes, and white at the base of their bills. Greater and Lesser Scaups can be difficult to distinguish in the field. Lesser Scaups average about 10% shorter and 25% lighter than Greater Scaups. The Lesser has a peaked, angular head that the Greater lacks. Seen in flight, the white on the Lesser Scaup’s wings fades to gray in the primaries. In the Greater Scaup, the white extends into the primaries. As always, taking into account habitat, range, and season may help differentiate between the two species, as well as using a field guide and working with experienced observers.

In winter, Lesser Scaups are often found in dense flocks of hundreds and even thousands, on lakes, reservoirs, rivers, and sheltered bays. Lesser Scaup are far more likely than Greater Scaup to be found on fresh water inland during the winter. In summer, nesting habitat is small wetlands with emergent vegetation in boreal forests and parklands. During migration, Lesser Scaups spend their time on rivers, lakes, and large wetlands.

Most Lesser Scaups probably breed at the age of two, nesting in late May through June. The nests are usually located on dry land close to water, in areas with dense cover, especially bulrush. The female builds the nest, which is a shallow bowl lined with grass and down. She lays 8 to 10 eggs and incubates them for 21 to 27 days. The male leaves when incubation begins. The young leave the nest within a day of hatching and head to the water, where they are tended by the female, but feed themselves. Two or more broods may come together and be cared for jointly by the females. The young fledge at 47 to 54 days, usually in late August or early September.

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