Drake Lesser Scaup in Salt Lake County

/, Lesser Scaups, Salt Lake County, Utah/Drake Lesser Scaup in Salt Lake County

Drake Lesser Scaup in early MarchDrake Lesser Scaup in early March – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1250, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

On the 5th of March I was at the local pond in the afternoon and the regular birds were there, lots of Canada Geese, Mallards, American Coots and one or two Pied-billed Grebes. Way out I spotted a pair of  Ring-necked Ducks but I figured they wouldn’t come close enough to photograph because they seem so skittish at this pond. Nothing much was going on, the geese weren’t flying in and out and I thought I was wasting time until another duck that was cruising slowly towards the shore caught my eye, at first my brain said “Ring-necked” then I looked closer and saw that it was a drake Lesser Scaup.

Diving drake Lesser ScaupDiving drake Lesser Scaup – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1600, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

In all the time I have spent at the local pond I believe this is the first Lesser Scaup I have found there so you just know I had to take photos of it as it swam closer and closer to where I was!

Lesser Scaup are fairly common diving ducks but I don’t see them all that often here in northern Utah at the locations where I most often photograph birds. The population of Lesser Scaup is in a slow but steady decline of 1.8% per year, between 1996 and 2015 that is a cumulative decline of 59%. I am aware that biologists are studying Lesser Scaup at Red Rock Lakes NWR because of their declining numbers.

Lesser Scaup drake floating on a pondLesser Scaup drake floating on a pond – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1600, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

The drake Lesser Scaup did come in close enough to be able to take a few images of it where it almost filled the frame before a man and his dog walked by and caused the scaup to make a hasty retreat to the middle of the pond. Even though I only photographed the Lesser Scaup for a few minutes finding and photographing this drake was one of the top highlights of my day.

Life is good.



  1. Patty Chadwick March 13, 2018 at 2:36 pm

    What a proud, elegant looking bird!!! Beautiful ( and looks like he knows it!!!)

  2. Elephants Child March 13, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    Just seeing this stunner on my screen is a highlight.

  3. Marty K March 13, 2018 at 9:16 am

    Beautiful shots, Mia. What a treat to find a new “friend” at the pond!

  4. April Olson March 13, 2018 at 7:33 am

    I think I saw a few at Salt Creek on Sunday. I thought they were ring-necked but they were missing the distinctive bill stripes. It made me wonder if the ring-neck distinctive bill was a mating or age coloration.

  5. Tim Traver March 13, 2018 at 6:44 am

    Wonderful photos of Lesser Scaup and nice to see the Ring-necked duck too! Thank-you for that comparison. Another lovely snow storm here but Common and Hooded Mergansers back on the river (and a blue bird in the trees).

  6. Liz Cormack March 13, 2018 at 6:33 am

    That would have been the highlight of my day too. Beautiful photos.

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