Scaup

Scientific name: Aythya marila

Did you know: Scaups, our rarest breeding ducks in the UK, only have a handful of breeding pairs each year!

What Do Scaups Look Like? (how to identify them)

Scaups are striking diving ducks, often confused with Tufted Ducks. 

The males boast a splendid black head, shoulders, and breast, contrasted with white flanks and a grey back. Their black tails add to their distinct appearance. Females, meanwhile, wear a brown plumage adorned with prominent white patches near their bill. 

When these birds take flight, they reveal white stripes along their wing’s back edge.

Differences Between Male And Female Scaups

Male and female Scaups differ notably. Males display a glossy greenish-black head, lacking the crest seen in Tufted Ducks, and have a rounder shape. 

Their white flanks and grey backs set them apart. Females are brown but can be easily identified by the bold white patch around the bill base, more striking than in any female Tufted Duck. Juvenile Scaups, usually dark brown, might exhibit a subtle white bill patch.

What Do Scaups Eat?

These diving ducks have a diet rich in shellfish, crustaceans, and small insects. In winter, they primarily feast on mussels. Scaups hunt by diving, either swallowing their catch underwater or surfacing with larger prey.

Where Do Scaups Live? (inc. migration info)

Scaups are winter visitors to the UK’s loughs, lochs, and inshore waters. They migrate from Iceland, Scandinavia, and western Russia around late October, with populations peaking in winter. Most return to their breeding grounds by March. 

The UK hosts about 3,000 Scaups each winter, especially in Northern Ireland and Scotland. Breeding in the UK is rare, usually involving just one or two pairs.

Bird Calls & Songs (the unique voices of Scaups)

Scaups communicate through a variety of calls. The males are known for their soft whistles during courtship, while females have a distinctive raspy call. These calls play a crucial role in their social interactions, especially during the breeding season.

Fun Scaup Facts (kid-friendly)

  • Scaups are known for their impressive diving skills.
  • Male Scaups have a greenish gloss on their black heads.
  • Female Scaups can sometimes develop plumage similar to males!
  • Scaups are the rarest breeding ducks in the UK.
  • They lay 5-11 olive-brown eggs in a single clutch.
  • Chicks are ready to swim soon after they hatch.
  • Scaups’ wingspan can reach up to 78 cm.
  • They migrate to the UK from as far as western Russia.
  • In flight, Scaups display a unique white stripe on their wings.
  • The Scaup’s conservation status in the UK is red, indicating they are of high conservation concern.

Scaup Images

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Male
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Female
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Hatchling
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Nestling
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Chick
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Fledgling
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Juvenile

Facts About The Scaup

Diet: Shellfish, crustacea and small insects.
Bird Family: Ducks, geese and swans
Length: 42-51cm
Wingspan: 67-78cm
Weight: 0.8-1.3kg
Scientific Name: Aythya marila

The Scaup Can Be Seen In The UK During The Following Months

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December