Telling the greater scaups and the lesser scaups apart is quite a chore for the accurate bird watcher and naturalist. Few duck hunters can tell them apart in flight or on the water unless they know the markings well and the light is exceptionally good.
The difference between the greater and lesser scaup is in the markings of the wings. The white band of color along the wings continues into the tip flight feathers on the greater scaup, but does not go beyond the bend of the wing in the lesser.
Other than this, they are identical in markings, both having light blue-grey bills. The female of both types has a white band between the bill and the eye, but this is not found on either of the males. The female of the ringneck has a narrow white band on the base of the bill but not in the feathers. The flight feathers on the ringneck do not have any white. Sitting on the water together it would be quite difficult to tell them apart.
The greater scaup winters along the West Coast as far south as central California and summers in northwest Canada and most of Alaska. The lesser scaup covers this area, plus the Eastern Seaboard from New England south to the West Indies, and Mexico.
Scaups fly in a rapid pace, in compact formation, without the form of a V and seldom in long strings. When they fly by the blind in full speed the noise from their wings sounds like a hurricane wind whistling through the trees. They often fly at great height during the migration, coming down at dusk or just after nightfall, thus avoiding the gunners.
They are both favorites of the hunter because of their numbers. The best way to attract them is with decoys of their coloration. Large rafts of decoys are used rather than just a few, as in the case of the puddle ducks.
Their food is one-half vegetable and one-half animal, so their diet is not a restricting factor in their choice of location for breeding purposes.
Periodically, slight variances in their number occur, but it is supposed that they are in no great danger of reaching dangerously low levels.
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