Water Birds of Valley Ranch – Part 4 – Scaup Duck

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Welcome back to the wonderful world of migratory Water Birds of Valley Ranch. Hopefully, you are finding these segments informative and entertaining. I know I’m entertained.

Today ‘s water bird is the Greater Scaup Duck. That’s pronounced “Sk-ow-p”. For you inquisitive souls, yes, there is a Lesser Scaup. However, only the Greater Scaup’s come to Valley Ranch. Need I explain why??

What makes the Greater Scaup so identifiable is they have blue bills. In addition the males have dark heads with a glossy green tint and bright yellow eyes. Add some pointy green ears and he could be a Green Goblin wannabe.

Female Greater Scaups are brown with white oval patches around their bills. They have a blue bill that is slightly duller than the males. Girlfriend you need more lipstick or is it billstick?

During the summers the Greater Scaup hang out primarily in the Boreal Forrest of Canada, Manitoba- North Dakota, the Northwest Territories and Alaska. In the fall, they start their migration south for the winter. They winter along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of North America, along the shores of the Great Lakes, the Gulf of Mexico and the entire US east coast from Maine to Florida. They do have the occasional stopover right here in Valley Ranch. These yellow eyed beauties can be seen along our canals starting around February till about April.

The Greater Scaup dives to obtain food, which they eat on the surface. Owing to their webbed feet and weight (about 2 to 2.5 lbs.), they can dive up to 20 ft. and stay submerged for up to a minute, allowing it to reach food sources that are unobtainable to other diving ducks.

In freshwater ecosystems, like our Trinity River fed canals, the Greater Scaup will eat seeds, leaves, stems and roots, along with sedges, pondweeds, muskgrass and wild celery. Tall tales say the wild celery is like catnip to Scaups. Watch out now!

Fun Fact: There have been reports that a Greater Scaup swallowed a leopard frog with a body length about 2 inches. The leopard frog is also called a meadow frog. I knew a kid in high school who swallowed a frog on a dare. Sadly, it was his own dare.

Till next time.

Barb the Bird Watcher

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One Response to Water Birds of Valley Ranch – Part 4 – Scaup Duck

  1. Betty Norman says:

    I’m thrilled to read this report on the greater scaup. I observed and photographed them on the South Canal this year, and even reported them in the Backyard Bird Count. Your report helps me to understand why this bird visits Valley Ranch, even though the maps show there are none here!

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