Peak Practice

We all know what Lesser Scaup looks like, right? One of the key ID features is head shape, which shows a small peak at the rear of the crown. Well here’s a Greater Scaup which breaks the rules.

Drake Scaup, Ditchford GP, 12th January 2014 (Bob Bullock)

Drake Scaup, Ditchford GP, 12th January 2014 (Bob Bullock)

Photographed by Bob Bullock at Ditchford Gravel Pits yesterday, this adult drake clearly shows a peaked crown. But it’s still a Greater Scaup.

Drake Scaup, Ditchford GP, 12th January 2014 (Bob Bullock)

Drake Scaup, Ditchford GP, 12th January 2014 (Bob Bullock)

The head is still too bulbous and rounded, the vermiculations on the upperparts are uniformly even (coarser towards rear on Lesser Scaup) and there are no traces of faint vermiculations on the flanks, which Lesser Scaup shows to a varying degree.

Drake Scaup, Ditchford GP, 12th January 2014 (Bob Bullock)

Drake Scaup, Ditchford GP, 12th January 2014 (Bob Bullock)

In addition to this the bird just looks too broad and bulky. Here’s what a Lesser Scaup should look like.

Drake Lesser Scaup, in captivity, Slimbridge (Bob Bullock)

Drake Lesser Scaup, in captivity, Slimbridge (Bob Bullock)

While the peak is visible it can appear equally subtle but it is often more pronounced. Note also head gloss – usually green in Scaup, purple in Lesser but it can vary with lighting.

Drake Lesser Scaup, Newquay, Cornwall, 19th February 2012 (Brian R Field)

Drake Lesser Scaup, Newquay, Cornwall, 19th February 2012 (Brian R Field)

Lesser Scaup has occurred in almost every British county except Northants, so the first record is up for grabs!

Many thanks to Bob and to Brian Field for the use of their excellent images.

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