Lesser Scaup – South Yorkshire

Loves bread!

P.S. have added a response to comments questioning the ID below.

There is no getting away from it. This one loves bread. Found on monday (3rd Jan) by Micky Mcnaghten on Hatfield Moor (though present but unrecognised for a couple of weeks-see comment below). There were understandable question over the I.D. and have been discussing it with Micky based on his views and photos. It’s only 40 minutes from my house so popped over for look this morning. Well I think it is one? The iris colour, worn tertial tips and notched tail feathers age it as a first winter and its a female. Seemingly having arrived around the same time as a mini-influx of Lesser Scaup, the credentials would seem good. Soon as I rolled up though it flew straight in and ran up the little grassy slope ready to compete with the Mute Swans and Canada Geese for my bread!

It’s not ringed, fully winged has a slightly gammy left leg (which could affect it feeding underwater?). Having hand fed wild American Wigeon in Vancouver (ducks generally can be a lot tamer in North America), I am having it as wild for now! Great wee bird.

Don’t know if it obvious in my photos (all taken in rain on a dark, grey morning) but the bird ticks my Lesser Scaup ID boxes.

1st winter female Lesser Scaup, Hadfield Moor, South Yorkshire, 5th January 2011

In this last one it’s running for that blob of white- a piece of bread!


About Martin Garner

I am a Free Spirit
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15 Responses to Lesser Scaup – South Yorkshire

  1. Claire and Alan says:

    Hi Martin.We are volunteers on Hatfield Moor and have been feeding this wonderful lesser scaup for easily a fortnight-not being twitchers ourselves and still learning the less likely birds to be seen-we presumed it was a throwback! We finally found out ourselves on the 5th-it is very keen on wholemeal bread and wheat as this is what we feed the birds in harsh weather as we are experiencing now. We have seen it diving on a couple of occasions-the 5th being one of the occasions.I hope this has been of some help to you-this is my dads email address as myself and Alan dont have access at home-if you wish to reply or ask anything please don’t hesitate to contact us on this email address.

    • Martin Garner says:

      Hi Claire and Alan

      That’s very helpful news. Thanks. Guess it just didn’t get noticed by others- well done!

      Did you begin feeding it in the harsh weather/snow etc?


  2. Mark says:

    Might pop up with a carboard box at the weekend. It’s time we had one in the Sheffield area 😉

  3. Geoff Morgan says:

    I’m no expert on Lesser Scaup by any means, but isn’t the nail on the bill a little broad and the head a little flat topped for a classic affinis? I am more than happy to be corrected on these points…


  4. Marcus Lawson says:

    I’m with Geoff on this one, it just doesn’t look right. I recall a letter in BB a few years back detailing a bird in Leics that looked Lesser Scaup-like and even had the correct upperwing pattern but wasn’t the real deal. Did you get a look at the underwing pattern Martin? I know variation in female Lesser Scaup is similar to that of Tufted Duck having studied several large flocks in Florida but this bird, unlike your Slimbridge stunner, looks to have some non Lesser Scaup genes in it.

    As you say it may just be that the lighting has betrayed the true appearance of the bird and hopefully the next set of photos taken in better light will portray it better to us screen jockeys!

    All the best

  5. Erich Hediger says:

    From the photos I agree the bill nail doesn’t look right and the head shaped isn’t right.
    I helped Id the ’96 Tophill Low bird so have past experience and could always pick it up even when asleep from it distinct head shape and this one just doesn’t give me the same impression.

  6. Martin Garner says:

    H guys

    Thanks Geoff, Marcus and Erich for thought provoking comments. I admit I may have got this wrong. I had hoped to get back for another look, but a birthday weekend has been distracting (in a good way!). This individual’s ID has been the subject of questions since it was first noticed, so credit to finders and early obs for cautious approach. In the field it often does revert to a head shape which peaks at the rear crown, looking better ironically when sitting on the water a little further away. The plumage tones appear paler, warmer brown than Tufties; little pale ‘Scaup’ cheek patch, skinny neck and scrawny odd shaped head, grey vermiculations in both flanks, OK looking wing bar. Although I didn’t see it, apparently even the underwing looks good for Lesser Scaup. The bill was the main subject of debate early on. Some female winter Lesser Scaup can seemingly retain all dark bill (late moulting/hatched juvs?). Thus I was happy enough. However the head shape in photos taken over weekend doesn’t quiet add up and I never really looked at it, but the nail is a bit scary (how many Lesser Scaup in the UK have been seen this close!).

    So I concede its appearance on reflection is bothersome. Not sure what’s going on but I will learn from the experience sure!

    Thanks for posting

    Cheers Martin

  7. Geoff Morgan says:


    Not the birthday present you were hoping for no doubt, but let’s face it, it is birds like this one that make birding such an interesting activity. There will be lots of folk looking more closely at their local Aythyas as a result of this bird and that’s a good thing.

    Keep up the great blog.


  8. Martin
    I assume you have seen these but for anyone else interested a series of close up photos here http://pewit.blogspot.com/2011/01/lesser-scaup.html
    In the sunlight of mid afternoon the wing bar just tended to look all white at any distance although there is a little contrast obviously on the close up shots —

  9. Erich Hediger says:

    Notice RBA are know treating it as a tuftie/hybrid. Don’t know it if this is the general view. As far as the nail is concerned this was one if the features we put the most effort into with the Tophill bird and from experience aberrant bill coloration on ducks is often a good indication of a hybrid [the only one apparently with Canvasbacks!]. However I must admit I had problems with the 2009 Hornsea Mere drake Lsr Scaup which was accepted by BBRC {I considered the mantle wasn’t heavily mark enough}.

  10. Marcus Lawson says:

    I did a lot of research into female Lesser Scaup after finding one in Kent in Dec ’98 (it was rejected but looked remarkably similar to the Slimbridge bird, as well as many others that I’ve seen subsequently) and I looked through some of my findings last night and found some notes I gleaned from The Peterson Guide to Advanced Birding. “In winter female bill can become darker…and is more variable on female and harder to see at any rate since bills tend to be darker overall. 1st winter female less white around bill base. Lesser has much longer thicker crown feathering, creating the appearance of a peak or point toward the rear of the crown. The peak in Lesser is often (or even usually) sleeked down briefly just before, or after, a dive. Head shape may also appear odd on a bird in the midst of moulting the head feathers. Young Scaup in 1st autumn are moulting almost continuously and may be into their 3rd generation of head and body feathers by mid-winter.”
    It ends by saying “The message is that not every Scaup can be safely named and you should be willing to let a bird go if it doesn’t look quite right”
    I understand the sentiments of the last bit but always struggle to put this into practice!!
    I also copied sketches of the bill shape from the book and, as Geoff has mentioned before, the Yorks bird’s bill is parallel sided whereas Lesser is broad at the base, pinches in a bit then gradually flares to a slight spatulate end.

    I’m sure none of this will be new to you Martin but I doubt this book is widely found on most British birders bookshelves so thought I would share it .

    I’m struggling to see the Yorks bird as “just” a Tufted Duck as there appear to be several Lesser Scaup features in there.

    All the best and thanks for sharing these informative birds with us,

  11. hmbb1 says:

    It would seem that there needs to be much more work done on Lesser Scaup and also on the various hybrids that might confuse. I have forwarded a selection of the photographs from the Hatfield Moors Birding Blog http://hmbb1.wordpress.com to a friend in Michigan who is going to pass them round to a few of his friends who are duck oriented. When I have heard back from them I will place their conclusions if any are forthcoming on the Hatfield Blog. Chris Robinson

  12. Julian Bell says:

    This female Lesser Scaup (incidentally the first female for Norway) may be of interest:


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