Lesser Scaup Rumba

Two steps forward, two steps back.  That’s the Peace River Wildlife Center lesser scaup rumba this year.  We no sooner release the ones we have successfully rehabbed, when new ones come in.  The lesser scaup is a medium sized black and white diving duck that primarily breeds in Central Alaska and Canada and is the only scaup we normally see in this area.   Generally flying at night, it is late to migrate to Florida’s Gulf coast area and one of the last species to return north in the spring.  The scaup is primarily a carnivore, with over 75% of his diet consisting of insects, crustaceans and mollusks.

Unlike most diving ducks, the lesser scaup can take flight from the water or land by leaping into the air during certain times of the year.  But it generally has to get a running start by skimming across the water to take off, especially after an arduous journey that has diminished its resources.  By the time the bird gets to our area, it is thin and exhausted.  It will sometimes land on a parking lot or lawn, mistaking a puddle or shimmer for a body of water, and find itself unable to take off again.

PRWC had two such birds presented in late December, a male and a female.  Our patients were treated for exhaustion with subcutaneous fluids and gavage feeding until they were stronger.  They were then offered a smorgasbord of insects worthy of a king—if you happen to know any kings who eat insects.  They were given a cozy place to sleep and fattened up for a few weeks until they appeared to be ready to go.  Luckily we found a flock of scaups just off the beach in Charlotte Harbour and were able to reunite this pair with their own kind.  The video of their release (on PRWC’s web site and Facebook page- https://www.facebook.com/peaceriverwildlifecenter/videos/1118065668203575/?theater ) is heartwarming.

We no sooner got done patting ourselves on the back for the successful scaup story, when two more checked themselves into the PRWC B&B.  At first we were concerned that it was the same two birds, but the new birds came from different areas and had completely different features than the birds we had released.  Apparently PRWC is not only the #1 Thing To Do in Punt Gorda according to Trip Advisor, we are also The destination spot for weary lesser scaups.

This new pair will be treated to the same luxurious spa treatments (daily swims in the pool to keep their waterproofing up) and entertainment (watching the rehabbers chase after these amazingly fast little ducks as they try to get them in and out of the pool.)  As with all of our rehabilitation animals, these birds are not on display to the public.  They will be released as soon as they are strong enough to get back to the business of being birds and we do not want to torment them by being exposed to more people than necessary.  It’s bad enough that they have to witness our uncoordinated dance moves, we definitely don’t want them exposed to the hysterical laughter of anyone else watching us do the Scaup Rumba.

by- Robin Jenkins, DVM