|Conservation status||Populations have been declining significantly for the last few decades. The causes for these declines are not well understood, but pollution in coastal areas could be one factor.|
|Family||Ducks and Geese|
|Habitat||Lakes, rivers, salt bays, estuaries. In summer on lakes and bogs in semi-open country near northern limits of boreal forest, and out onto tundra. In winter mainly on coastal bays, lagoons, estuaries; some on lakes inland. Overlaps with Lesser Scaup at all seasons, but in winter the Greater tends to be on more open bays, more exposed situations.|
Forages by diving and swimming underwater; large food items brought to surface to be eaten. Occasionally forages by dabbling or up-ending in shallow water. May feed at any time of day, or at night, with timing affected by tides in coastal regions.
7-9, sometimes 5-11. Olive buff. Incubation is by female only, 24-28 days. Young: female leads young to water shortly after hatching; 2 or more broods may join, tended by 1 or more females. Young feed themselves, are capable of flight 40-45 days after hatching.
Female leads young to water shortly after hatching; 2 or more broods may join, tended by 1 or more females. Young feed themselves, are capable of flight 40-45 days after hatching.
Mostly mollusks and plant material. Diet in winter is mainly mussels, clams, oysters, snails, and other mollusks. In summer (and perhaps in winter on fresh water) consumes plants including pondweeds, wild celery, sedges, grasses, and others; also insects and crustaceans.
Pair formation occurs mostly in late winter and early spring. Several males may court one female. Display elements of the males include throwing the head back sharply while giving a soft call; exaggerated bowing movements, with bill tip lowered to water and then raised high; flicking wings and tail while giving soft whistled notes. Nest site usually very close to water on island, shoreline, or mats of floating vegetation. Nest is a shallow depression, lined with dead plant material and with down. Female chooses nest site and builds nest. Several nests may be close together in loose colony.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Migrates in flocks. Birds from Alaska may winter on either Pacific or Atlantic coast; banding records indicate that the same individual may go to opposite coasts in different winters, probably as a result of joining different flocks.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsUsually silent; discordant croaking calls on breeding grounds.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Greater Scaup
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Greater Scaup
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.