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White-winged Scoter Melanitta fusca


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White-winged Scoter, male
credit: USFWS

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Anatidae, Ducks and Geese view all from this family

Description ADULT MALE Has mainly black plumage (dark brown on flanks), which emphasizes striking white horizontal comma-shaped patch seen below pale eye, and glimpsed patch of white on closed wings of swimming birds. Bill is mostly pinkish, but more blackish near the base. First-winter male is browner overall than adult and lacks white under eye. ADULT FEMALE Mainly dark sooty brown plumage, but note pale cheek patch and pale patch at base of dark bill.

Dimensions Length: 19-24" (48-61 cm)

Habitat Locally common. Nests beside inland tundra pools in Arctic. Outside breeding season, almost exclusively coastal, favoring bays and estuaries with sandy seabeds.

Observation Tips Easiest to find in winterůscan a sheltered bay from an elevated vantage point and look for the diagnostic white highlights on otherwise dark-looking birds.

Range Rocky Mountains, Mid-Atlantic, Texas, Western Canada, Plains, New England, Northwest, Florida, Eastern Canada, Alaska, Southeast, Southwest, California, Great Lakes

Voice Mostly silent, but occasionally quacks and breeding males whistle.

Discussion Bulky duck that dives frequently and for long periods. Similar to, but larger than, Black Scoter with which it sometimes consorts in winter. Both sexes have white inner flight feathers, striking and obvious in flight but often visible, albeit only partially, in swimming birds too. White markings on head of male enable easy identification, while female's facial markings are useful features to look for.