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Mainly a sea duck that visits offshore Dorset waters in winter in small numbers.

Photograph by: 
Edmund Mackrill

Scaup: all at sea

Like many of our wintering ducks the scaup (Aythya marila) nests in the far north in Arctic regions and migrates south when the harsh weather sets in. Scaup are long distance migrators and they disperse over a wide area and good numbers visit the North Sea coasts of Britain but far fewer generally venture as far west as Dorset and they are quite scarce here.

The weekly reports chart gives the impression that the scaup is a regular visitor here with several reports each week from week 38 in mid-September right through the winter until week 20 in late May but this is a bit deceiving. The sites reporting chart shows that most of the reports come from Abbotsbury Swannery and this seems to be a favourable wintering home for them with a small number of long staying birds being reported. October and then April do seem to produce a number of reports each year and this coincides with the migration periods and so should, perhaps, be expected as passage birds may be seen here.

The scaup has a preference for open sea but does visit large coastal lakes on occasions and other than at Abbotsbury Swannery where it will enjoy the company of other duck species, it is occasionally seen in Poole Harbour and also at other points along the Fleet.

To add scaup to your Dorset list you just need to keep watching the news to see where and when any are reported. 



Common Name Scaup
Scientific Name Aythya marila
Species Group Birds Ducks
Status Scarce
Interest Level
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
  • 11 - November
  • 12 - December
  • 01 - January
  • 02 - February
  • 03 - March
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
Look for

A tufted duck on open saline waters

Identification Notes
  • Similar to a tufted duck to which it is related but lacks the tuft and has a greyer back
  • Mainly a saltwater species whereas the similar tufted duck has an almost totally freshwater preference
  • A wintering diving duck usually seen offshore but also at closer quarters in Poole Harbour or, very occasionally, on reservoirs and gravel pits 
Primary Habitat
Preferred Environment
Look for
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Notebook Distribution Map Sites List Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Birds Ducks