By Dave Hanks

When scanning a body of water, the ducks we see quite often are Scaup.This group consists of diving ducks that are awkward when walking on land because their legs are set so far back on their body. They, also, have a compact, heavy body that necessitates a running start on water in order to gain flight.

Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, and Ring-Necked Duck are all familiar to me. Both the Greater and Lesser Scaup are very similar except for their head colors. The Lesserís head is purplish, while the Greaterís is a dull green. They both appear black at a distance, and you must examine them closely with binoculars to see the colors. The Greater prefers salt water, but the Lesser is more apt to be found in fresh water lakes. Also, Lesser Scaup are by far the most numerous Ė making up 90 percent of the two populations.

The Ring Necked is slightly larger and has a dark dorsal surface, instead of a light one like the other two. The white on his belly ends with a tip that extends partway up his neck. This species also has a white ring around the lower end of his beak. It gets its name from a cinnamon colored collar that can only be seen if very close up. Ring-Necks summer in Canada, but come to the western states to winter. During migration is the best time to observe them, when they are very common on small ponds during this time.

The females of these three species are hard to tell apart without careful field guide study.

Top = Ring-Necked Duck

Middle = Lesser Scaup

Bottom = Greater Scaup