Lesser and Greater Scaup at Slimbridge

A Good day just got better...

Early morning at end December saw me watching Slimbridges’ famous Rushy Pen with James Lees and Simon Mackie. A couple of first winter male Greater Scaup gave great views. While watching these I picked out a good-looking Lesser Scaup candidate. Martin McGill , senior Warden had seen a very likely Lesser Scaup 2 days previously but all too brief. I locked onto this bird which immediately looked good for 1st winter female- smaller size, head shape, plumage tones all suggested Lesser Scaup. Surely Martin’s bird.  Got James Lees onto it straight away. Just as he picked it up on the water it took off! Dang!! Double dang!! All happened so fast that Simon Mackie didn’t even have time to get on it. Thankfully after being reported again over last couple of days, James got it tonight on Rushy Pen. Sweet! Seems to look the business.

1st winter female Lesser Scaup, Slimbridge, 2 January 2011. James Lees. The dull iris colour ages it as first winter.

Now check out the Greaters…

Interesting to see how different they appeared. Check out differences in: bill tip pattern, iris colour, head pattern amount of grey vermiculations on upperparts and flanks. The duller male was quite easy to overlook, also with more juvenile bill pattern but brighter iris. Have a look. Photos below by me and James Lees. All taken, Slimbridge, 30 December 2010.

2 thoughts on “Lesser and Greater Scaup at Slimbridge

  1. Nick Lethaby


    I was wondering if you could add a bit more of the aging/sexing of these scaups, as this is an issue that has confusing me in the USA. I saw all three of these on Dec 31 when back in the UK, although I subsequently found out that I wasn’t the orignal finder of the Lesser! In particular, could you comment on the differences in eye color between the imm LS and GS. Is this just due to general variation in when the yellow eye is obtained, the fact the LS is a female and the GS a male, or becuase GS gets the yellow sooner? Also I am interested in the striking difference between the two male GSs. How long can juvenile GS retain an unmoulted plumage and how late can adult male GS retain eclipse plumage? I assume juv female GS have much extensive white around the base of the bill and therefore the brown imm is definitely a male. Thanks for any insight.

    Nick Lethaby

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