Skip Navigation

Species Search:
FieldGuidesthreatened and/or endangered search resultsthreatened and/or endangered

previous  | next

Surf Scoter Melanitta perspicillata


enlarge +

Surf Scoter, male
credit: Alan D. Wilson/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

All Images


Get Our Newsletters


Advanced Search

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

Description ADULT MALE Has mainly black plumage, but note prominent white patches on nape and forehead. Bill is orange-yellow on top and to the tip, with a white basal patch encompassing a large, black spot; at close range note the whitish eye. First-winter male has brownish plumage, but a hint of adult's bill pattern. ADULT FEMALE Mainly dark gray-brown plumage with white patch at base of bill, and one behind eye.

Dimensions Length: 17-21" (43-53 cm)

Habitat Locally common. Nests beside lakes and winters on coasts.

Observation Tips Typically feeds close to shore, sometimes in surf.

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

Voice Mostly silent but breeding males whistle.

Discussion Hardy sea duck with a particularly large, triangular bill. Dives frequently and for long periods, feeding on marine invertebrates. In flight, all birds show uniformly dark wings. Male is distinctive, white head markings and colorful bill contrasting with otherwise black plumage. Female could be confused with females of other scoter species: head markings and bill size allow separation from Black; uniformly dark wings distinguish it from White-winged.