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These birds are slangily called 'bluebills' because of course, by their distinctive blue bill (beak) Both greater & lesser scaup are similar in colouration, but differ slightly in size. This size difference is more dramatic after the birds have fully matured, toward the end of the 'hunting' season. They are often difficult to tell apart before this. Too, the drake bluebill and a female redhead can confuse many novice hunters - and game officials! Be sure of your ducks, especially when considering that bluebills may have a higher harvest/count bag limit than redheads in most North American jurisdictions. Bluebill populations are higher than redhead populations, and can take more gunning pressure without harming their numbers. Redhead bag limits must remain lower than bluebill harvests (at present) - so it is mighty important to be sure not to over harvest redheads where both these birds co-exist! 

Bluebills are not a spectacularly large bird, but have an incredibly 'meaty' breast, and of excellent fine flavour. They are generally larger than a wood duck, but smaller than, and about three quarters the size of a mallard. 

Bluebills decoy readily, but leave your mallard call at home. Most often little calling is necessary, but an accomplished caller may dupe the birds with some purr like whistling calls. 

Like most diver ducks, decoy set-ups will be in more open water locations, and be set-up slightly different than marsh duck decoy placement. Numbers count when decoying bluebills, and the more the better! 

Bluebills are a rafting bird, and once rafted, it is often difficult to get a family unit to 'break off' and decoy. Bad weather usually shakes them up though, and may 'break-up' a huge raft. In my area of the Long Point (Lake Erie) we have huge concentrations of bluebills go through, and just before they are driven south by bad weather, there may be hundreds of thousands of these birds rafted up in several five to ten acre rafts - an awesome and spectacular sight!

Author: John A. Vance
Copyright © 1998 John A. Vance. . . 
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