Answer to the scaup quiz

Andy McGann|

And the answer to yesterday’s video quiz is….


However, the results of the voting were a statistical tie!

Lesser Scaup   – 32 votes
Greater Scaup – 31 votes
not sure – 2 votes

But why is it a Lesser Scaup??

Well, this was a very tough case indeed. And it goes to show that scaup are actually easier to ID when they are relaxed. This bird was actively foraging and diving, and the crown did not appear as peaked as it otherwise could have, given that its crown feathers weren’t very puffed up. However, you can still get a sense of a notch at the back of the crown, where it would otherwise be more peaked. Lesser’s also have a larger/taller head size, in proportion to their body. Additionally, the barring pattern on the scapulars is courser than on a Greater. Although not always helpful in an ID situation, it’s useful to recall that Lesser Scaup should be the “default” scaup species on small freshwater ponds. Greater should be thought of as the default species on brackish or saltwater habitats.

But this serves as a reminder to acknowledge the limitations of our ID abilities, as well as take any opportunities to study a cooperative bird at length.

To see the video again, click here. Thanks for playing!

About the Author

Andy McGann

Birding since the young age of 10, Andy has an M.S. in biology from the College of William and Mary. His graduate work included a thesis on the winter ecology of Rusty Blackbirds and projects on the movement of toxic mercury pollution through a riparian food web in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Prior to that, he earned a B.S. in biology and an environmental studies concentration from Villanova University, with undergraduate research projects on Black-capped and Carolina Chickadee hybridization and the conservation of the potentially-extinct Cozumel Thrasher in Mexico. In the past 12 years, Andy has worked on many projects in several states, including the Second Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Atlas project, Northern Goshawk surveys in Idaho, Canada Warblers nesting in Vermont, and environmental consulting in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Nebraska. Andy was also the first recipient of the Ned Smith Center's saw-whet owl banding internship.

A top-notch birder, he once placed second in the World Series of Birding with Drew Weber, Mike Lanzone, and other members of the PA Breeding Bird Atlas point count survey crew. He has enjoyed leading birding tours for the Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel) organization, in Cape Charles, Virginia and the Great Dismal Swamp. He serves on the board of the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology and is an active committee member with his local land conservancy.

Andy currently works for Cellular Tracking Technologies, a communications technology company founded to serve the needs of wildlife researchers and conservationists. CTT specializes in machine-to-machine communications hardware and software solutions for low-cost worldwide data delivery via global cellular networks. Lightweight, solar-powered, energy-thrifty, and rugged, these devices are attached to wild animals and high-value assets for long-term remote GPS tracking. At CTT, Andy applies his ornithological expertise, love of technology, and appreciation for geography to help wildlife researchers and organizations around the world obtain the GPS tracking information they need.