Lesser Scaup

Black and grey duck swimming
The purple sheen on this drake's head shows that it is a lesser scaup, not the closely related greater scaup.


While lesser scaups are the most common diving duck in North America, and a common species in Grand Canyon, their population has been declining since the 1980s. Pollution, habitat destruction, and climate change are believed to be major factors in the decrease in the number of lesser scaups.

Scientific Name
Aythya affinis


  • Males (drakes) have a black head and tail, with white wings and a gray back. Males have a purple sheen on the back of the head, a light gray bill, and yellow eyes.
  • Females (hens) are a light mottled brown, with darker brown heads, light gray bills, and orange eyes.
  • Lesser scaup appear similar to greater scaup, but greater scaup drakes have a green sheen on the head and hens have yellow eyes.


  • During the summer, lesser scaup live in marshes in prairies and forests in Canada and the northern United States.
  • During the winter, lesser scaup live in lakes, rivers, and coastal bays in the southern United States and much of Mexico.
  • They are found in the Grand Canyon as winter residents who live along the Colorado River.


  • Lesser scaup are small diving ducks, and are seen repeatedly diving and surfacing while feeding.
  • Scaup are omnivores, and feed on a mix of invertebrates and plants, including snails, insects, pondweeds, and grasses.
  • Compared to other ducks, diving ducks (including scaup) have their legs positioned towards the rear of their body. This makes them strong swimmers, but makes it difficult for them to move on land.
  • Nests are built on dry land close to water, in locations that are surrounded by vegetation.
  • Females lay 9-11 eggs. The young leave the nest 47-54 days after hatching.

Last updated: March 23, 2016

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