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Thinner-necked and smaller-billed, while even showing a purplish sheen, these lesser scaup drakes seem more alert than greaters due to their high-headed look. Inset photo: Greater scaups appears more thick-necked and larger-billed, with a broader, more rounded head than lessers. The broad black "nail" is even evident on this drake's bill tip. Keith Corliss / Pioneer

Flight lines: Look-alike ducks present difficult, though not impossible, challenge.

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There are groups of birds that stubbornly defy easy identification for beginners and experts alike. To some it's part of the appeal of the hobby. A dare, a challenge, from nature itself. Try and unmask the identity of my participants, it seems to demand.

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