Of all the ducks in the world scaup are the worst. They are unattractive, ubiquitous, and uninteresting. Whether they are Greater Scaup or Lesser Scaup, no one cares. The only way these birds could be less fun is if there were an Intermediate Scaup. And even if such a bird existed and were endangered no one would want to see it. Scaup are so worthless that when you input “I love scaup” into Google you only get four results and three of them are hunting related. The fourth result is about the only redeeming scaup, the New Zealand Scaup, which at least has the good grace to try to hide its connection with the other scaup by also being called “Black Teal.”

In other words, the New Zealand Scaup is so embarrassed by its association with the other scaup species that it not only tries to hide its affiliation with them but attempts to get out of being a diving duck altogether. It is forced to act as those who are related to Trump supporters must. (Pretend you don’t know them, pretend you aren’t related, and if you are forced to spend time with them try to cut the time as short as you can.)

The other closest relation to scaup is the Tufted Duck which, if it were a scaup, would be by far the best scaup that there is. In fact, the most fun you can have looking at scaup is trying to find a Tufted Duck in their midst. Otherwise, you would die of boredom while looking at their blue bills. Which reminds me, that is what they are called colloquially, “Blue Bills.” Can you imagine what chud came up with such a lame and obvious nickname? “Hey, lookee-there! A duck with a blue bill! Let’s call it a Blue Bill!”

Of course, the fact that Blue Bill is actually a better name than “scaup” is kind of hilarious. What even is a scaup? Apparently, no one is quite sure where the name comes from: it might be related to the mating call of the Greater Scaup or it might come from a Scottish and northern English word for a shellfish bed, at least according to Wikipedia. Scaup are so boring that they might be named for a regional term for a place where mollusks live. How lousy does a duck have to be to be named for a mollusk? At least Barnacle Geese are named for an arthropod.

Even telling apart Lesser Scaup and Greater Scaup is boring. First, it’s not terribly difficult. Second, once you’ve identified that distant scaup to species do you feel like you’ve accomplishaed anything? Or do you just mark it off in eBird and go on about your day? The only time I care in the slightest which scaup I am seeing is the first time I see each species in a new year and when doing some type of big day.

Here on 10,000 Birds, where we love all birds, the paucity of posts about scaup stands out. We have exactly two posts tagged with either “Greater Scaup” or “Lesser Scaup.” Imagine that! Two species, neither of which is rare or difficult to see and we have a total of two posts about either species! One post is one I wrote seven years ago. It is a series of shots of Greater Scaup flying out of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge’s West Pond, of which the image that includes Red-breasted Mergansers is the most interesting. The other post is Jochen’s tale of trying to find a Lesser Scaup in Europe. Birders there had to invent games to make seeing a scaup interesting:

Because of all the places it could have called its winter home, it chose the Rhine separating Huningue and Weil am Rhein, the border triangle of Switzerland, France and Germany. Its preferred place – the feeding area – is in Huningue in France, 109 m away from the German border that runs along the centre of the river, and a bit further away from the Swiss part of the Rhine to the South of Germany. Once in a while, it will fly around a bit and then cross Swiss and German air space. Determined listers from these countries would therefore do well to stand on their side of the Rhine for hours and hours, sometimes maybe even a whole day or two, and wait for this fly-over to happen. I know birders who have done this, and it is an exercise in boredom.

Even when trying to get what is a rare scaup for their part of the world on three country lists at the same time it is “an exercise in boredom.” I rest my case. Scaup suck. That is all.

Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.