Aythya Affinis – Lesser Scaup

Aythya Affinis - Lesser Scaup found in the US

The lesser scaup (Aythya affinis) is a tiny diving duck native to North America that winters in Central America. Due to its unusual blue bill, it is often referred to as the small bluebill or broadbill. The term scaup may originate from the bird’s predilection for the scalp—the Scottish word for clams, oysters, and mussels; however, some attribute the name to the female’s discordant scaup call.

Quick Overview: Aythya Affinis – Lesser Scaup
Body size: Around 15-18 in (38-46 cm) and a weight of 1155 g (40.77 oz)
Main colors: Gray, Gray-White, Black, Purple, Yellow, Blue-Gray, Brown, Red-Brown, White
Range: Throughout the United States
Migratory Bird: Yes
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: January, February, December
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Lesser Scaup Description

Medium-sized diving duck with finely barred gray back and gray-washed white underparts. Head, neck, and breast are black with purple shine. It has yellow eyes, a blue-gray bill, a black tail, and black wings with white spots. Females are chocolate brown with lighter sides, red-brown head, and white patch at base of dark gray bill.

Aythya Affinis - Lesser Scaup found in the US
Aythya Affinis – Lesser Scaup. Source: Wikipedia


These birds have a length of 15-18 in (38-46 cm) and a weight of 1155 g (40.77 oz). Their wings could range from 23-33 in (61-64 cm).


Adults and juveniles of lesser scaup consume insects, crustaceans, and mollusks. They occasionally collect seeds from aquatic plants as well, such as yellow pond lilies (Nuphar). They dive for food in shallow, open water.


During the breeding season, the lesser scaup is found on freshwater marshes, lakes, ponds, and bays. It is found in marine, brackish, and freshwater habitats during the winter.


They dive for food in shallow, open water. They dive at an angle and come to rest a few meters from the point of entry. They consume the majority of their prey underwater, but sometimes bring larger items to the surface to be handled. Diets vary according to the season and regional availability of food.

Aythya Affinis Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Anseriformes
  • Family: Anatidae
  • Genus: Aythya
  • Species: Aythya affinis

Best time of the year to see

The best time to see these birds in the United States is during the winter season (December to February).

Distribution of the Lesser Scaup in the USA

Breeds throughout Alaska‘s interior and northern Canada, south to Colorado, Nebraska, and occasionally farther east. Winters along the coasts south of British Columbia and Massachusetts, as well as interior south of Colorado and the Great Lakes.

The Lesser Scaup can be found in the following states in the United States – Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Aythya Affinis – Lesser Scaup

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