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Posts Tagged ‘Aythya affinis’

This cool-looking bird is a female scaup—I love the white stripe on her face and her striking eyes. If I were a bit better at bird identification, I might be able to figure out is she is a Greater Scaup (Aythya marila) or a Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis). The differences between the two species are pretty subtle, especially when it comes to females, so I will generally identify them simply as “scaups.”

Throughout this month, I have seen quite a few scaups in flocks in the deep waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Scaups are diving ducks and therefore rarely seem to come as close to the shore as dabbling ducks like mallards and pintails. It is therefore quite a challenge to get a detailed shot of a scaup.

On the day when I took this photo, the wind was kicking up and the waters were rough, which slowed down the scaup enough for me to be able to capture this image—I recommend clicking on the image to get a good look at the facial features of this distinctive duck.

scaup

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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They made a bit of an odd couple, but this scaup and this Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) seemed happy together as they paddled around in the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge on Monday. I have the distinct impression that birds are increasingly willing to tolerate the presence of other species during the winter months and it is not uncommon for me to spot mixed flocks of birds in the water and on the land.
The Pied-billed Grebe has a very distinctive look and is easy to identify. When it comes to the scaup, however, identification is a bit more problematic, because there are Greater Scaups (Aythya marila) and Lesser Scaups (Aythya affinis). Lesser Scaups are somewhat smaller than Greater Scaups and their heads are shaped differently (the Lesser has a thinner, more peaked head than the Greater Scaup, which has a more round head), but I have never been able to tell the two species apart.
I really like the visual comparison in the photo between the size and shape of the bodies and bills of these two swimming birds as well as their very different coloration. Birds that look different from each other can live together in peace. Why is it that we humans can’t do the same?
odd couple
© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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At this time of the year I am always looking for birds in the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, like this scaup, a small diving duck, that I spotted on Monday. There is a Greater Scaup (Aythya marila) and a Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis) and they are quite similar in appearance.

For the sake of identification, I am going to assume that this is a “Greater” one—I do not want to damage its self-esteem by calling it “Lesser.”

scaup

scaup

scaup

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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The wind was blowing strongly on Monday morning, kicking up lots of waves in the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. In the deeper water I could see a small group of scaups bobbing up and down among the waves. Were they Greater Scaups (Aythya marila) or Lesser Scaups (Aythya affinis)?

I confess that I can’t tell the difference between the two species. I was content to get shots of both genders, especially the female with the distinctive white markings at the base of her bill.

scaup

 

scaup

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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I have been seeing increasing numbers of scaups off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, but they stayed in the deep water, so I never managed to get a close look at them.

I think they are Greater Scaups (Aythya marila), but there is also a chance that they are the similar-looking Lesser Scaups (Aythya affinis). The differences between the two species are subtle enough that I do not feel at all confident in distinguishing between the two. The white stripe behind the bill indicates that the one in the first image is a a female. I think the one on the left in the second photo may be an immature female and the one on the right is almost certainly a female.

Greater Scaup

Greater Scaups

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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