Today, we’ll look at some of the diving ducks that turn up in more inland waters on larger ponds, lakes, reservoirs and rivers.

Some of these will also be found on more coastal waters, and even out in the open ocean, but the real ocean ducks will be the subject of a later post.

Let’s start with a group of ducks that feature dark heads and a dark front and back end, with a light body in between.   The first of these, and the easiest to identify, is the Ring-necked Duck.  The male of this duck is easily told, even at a distance, by the vertical white band at the front of the grey side.  Another fairly obvious clue, on both sexes, is the white ring around the bill right behind the black tip.  The female is a plain brown, with the little Egyptian-style eyeline behind the eye also found on female Canvasbacks and Redheads.

The next pair is confusing, even for people who have been birding for a while, although they can easily be told from Ringnecked Ducks by their bright white sides.  The Greater and Lesser Scaup have a few clues to their identification, but sometimes you will be simply left with an ID of ‘Scaup species’.  The clues are these:

Lesser Scaup are more likely to be found on smaller, more inland bodies of water, while Greater Scaup tend more to larger, deeper, more coastal bodies of water.  This is not a hard and fast rule, of course, because that would make it too easy..  The next clue (which is not always definite) is the shape of the head.  Greater Scaup have a rounder back of the head, which may have a greenish gloss when the light is good.  Lesser Scaup have a fairly peaked back of the head, which may have a purplish gloss if seen in good sunlight.  The females of both ducks have a big white band around the base of the bill.  If seen in flight, the most definite clue is the band at the back edge of the wing – Greater Scaup has a good white color that extends out onto the primaries before fading to gray.  Lesser Scaup has the bright white band that only extends along the secondaries in the middle of the wing.  The primaries are all gray.