Today’s balmy weather brought hundreds of migrant birds to the North Basin. The sizeable flock appeared to be almost entirely Greater Scaup. The males have a dark head with a yellow eye, a white and grey back and a light blue bill. The females in the water are dark all over except for a white patch over the bill; their bellies are a light color. A few Ruddy Ducks also showed up. Whether these numbers will stay remains to be seen. The mass of Bufflehead who arrived here two weeks ago, as noted in my post, mostly moved on in the following days. Only a relative handful stayed.
The Cornell Bird Lab web site gives these “Cool Facts” about Greater Scaup:
- Occasionally an older female Greater Scaup will have male-like head color and male patterning on her back, but she still has the typical white face patch of a female.
- Once incubation begins, the male Greater Scaup leaves the female and goes to molt on some relatively large, isolated lake. These lakes are used year after year during molt, and may be in the immediate vicinity of the breeding wetlands or many miles away. They are relatively shallow and contain abundant food and suitable cover.
- The nest of a Greater Scaup is usually lined with a thick layer of down plucked by the mother from her own breast. Nests of poor-condition females may lack down and instead may contain small, grayish-white feathers plucked from beneath the outer body feathers.
- The oldest recorded Greater Scaup was a male, and at least 20 years, 5 months old when he was found in Michigan in 2007. He had been banded in New York in 1998.