Greater Scaup at South Platte Park

On this spring-like morning in early February, I headed to South Platte Park, in Littleton.  Though I enjoyed the bright sunshine and crystal-clear air, a strong south wind produced a bit of a chill and kept the waterfowl in sheltered coves.

An exception was a flock of greater scaup, bobbing in waves along the retreating ice.  These circumpolar ducks breed across Arctic latitudes of North America and Eurasia and generally winter on coastal bays of those Continents.  While they may turn up on large, inland, freshwater lakes during migrations, they are not often encountered away from saltwater during the winter months.

Larger cousins of the more common lesser scaup, greater scaup have been declining in population over the past few decades.  Since they feed on aquatic mollusks and crustaceans during the winter months, it is thought that chemical pollution in coastal bays and estuaries may be taking a toll on these handsome diving ducks.  To observe a flock along the Colorado Front Range this morning was thus a special treat.