Trawling the Mississippi River backwaters for fowl information
Dear Answer Man, my wife and I saw literally hundreds of small white ducks on the Mississippi River backwaters east of Wabasha over the weekend, with black heads and a black tail. Most of them had their tails in the air like they were diving. What were they? -- A.L.
Being an expert on migratory waterfowl, I can assert with some certainty that they were likely bluebills, whether lesser scaup or greater scaup. Both types of diving duck are fairly small and they like to dive in big water. The greater scaup are a brighter white than the lesser, but the lesser are more common around these parts. They're passing through on their way to breeding ranges in northwestern Minnesota and Canada.
You might also see goldeneye and bufflehead among the diving ducks at this time of year, but do not call the latter "buffalohead." They hate that.