Greater Scaup
Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network

Greater Scaup

Medium-sized diving duck 15” to 20” long with an average wingspan of 31”. Drakes have a shiny, dark green head, a black breast and tail, and a pearly gray back and white underbelly. Hens are mostly brown except for a white underbelly and a white patch at the base of the pale blue-gray bill.


Brackish bays and inlets.


Greater scaups breed in Alaska and parts of northern Canada, migrating through the Chesapeake in late autumn and again in March and April. Only a relative few spend the winter, most favoring wintering grounds farther south.


Mollusks such as small clams, aquatic plants.


Usually silent. In flight drakes may voice a barklike “scaup, scaup.” Listen to a sample (Requires RealPlayer)

Cool Facts:

Bay birders may see large flocks of these hardy birds rafted up in open water. Underwater they can swim long distances, their wings pressed tightly against the body. And although scaups generally feed on small mollusks and aquatic plant parts, researchers examining their stomach contents have found rubber bands, paper, and even cow hair.

The decoy pictured is from the collection of the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art and was photographed by Middleton Evans. Waterfowl sounds are courtesy of the Macaulay Lab of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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