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Common American Scaup Duck

Common American Scaup Duck

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[Greater Scaup.]

[Aythya marila.]


It is extremely curious that none of the authors who have written on the ornithology of our country, should have discovered that, independent of the subject which forms this article, another species of Scaup Duck also exists, and that abundantly too, throughout the United States.

ALEXANDER WILSON figured a Scaup Duck, but in his description of the adult in winter, he says that "the irides" are "reddish," and yet he says that the Scaup Duck is well known in England. Until about two years since, I thought that I had given the history of the Common Scaup Duck, but find now that I have been mistaken, and that all that I have said of "Fuligula Marila," must now be applied to Fuligula mariloides of VIGORS. The bird which has been described in my Ornithological Biographies, and figured in my large plates, being in fact the Fuligula mariloides of VIGORS, who described from a specimen procured during BEECHEY's voyage. In a note to page 31, Doctor RICHARDSON, who found this latter species, speaks of it as being smaller, but does not point out any specific differences between the two birds; and to WILLIAM YARRELL, Esq., of London, is now due the knowledge of this species, which he has characterized and described in such a manner as to render it forever a good and true species, differing from the Fuligula Marila in size, being considerably smaller than the latter, the form of its bill, the colouring of the terminal feathers of the head, &c. &c.

About two years ago, my attention was called to notice the typical Scaup Duck, by Mr. JOHN G. BELL, of whom I have already spoken, when I plainly saw the difference between the two species, but could not figure the typical Scaup Duck at the time. I believe, however, that it was described by Mr. GIRAUD, whose paper was read by himself before the members of the Lyceum of Natural History of New York. I do not know whether or not Mr. GIRAUD gave a new name to this species, and it does not signify, as it is now well established by Mr. YARRELL of London, as above stated, that it is the Fuligula Marila, and that our smaller species is the Fuligula mariloides of VIGORS.

Mr. BELL has kindly sent me specimens in the flesh, and fresh, from which I have figured the male and female, and taken very exact measurements, weight, &c. Mr. VIGORS, in speaking of these two species, says: "Several specimens of a bird nearly allied, if not the same, were brought home by the expedition. They uniformly differ from the typical Fuligula Marila in their smaller size; in the black colour on the breast being less intense and defined; in the undulating white markings being less diffused over the scapulars and back, and being wanting almost entirely on the wing-coverts."


18 3/8, 32.

Shores of Long Island, and generally distributed.

Adult Male in January.

In this species the bill is narrower at the base than at top by nearly one-third. It is of a pale blue colour, the unguis rather large, hooked at the point, and black. The irides bright yellow; the whole head and neck, as well as the upper part of the breast and back, black; cheeks and sides of neck glossed with rich reflections of green, the rest of the back and scapulars striped in zigzag and well divided lines of black on a white ground; wing-coverts darker grey than the back; primaries brownish-black; the secondaries white, forming the speculum, and tipped with black narrowly edged with white. Rump and upper tail-coverts black; tail feathers brownish-black; breast, sides below the wing, and the flanks, pure white; the belly behind the legs undulated with greyish lines on a dull whitish ground; legs and toes bluish-black, the membranes darker.

Bill along the ridge 2 1/4 inches, along the edge 2, to pinion 10 1/2, to end of claws 20 3/8; flexure of wing 8 1/4; bill to end of tail 18 3/8; alar extent 32; claws beyond the tail 2 1/8. First quill longest. Tail of 14 feathers 2 3/8 in length. Weight 2 pounds avoirdupois.

The Female is somewhat smaller, the head and neck dark brown, the bill as in the male, as well as the irides; around the base of the bill a broad band of white; the lower part of the neck and breast dark brown, the back and scapulars light grey, transversely barred with irregular dusky lines; the primaries dark brown; the secondaries white, tipped with brown; legs and feet as in the male.

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