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Black Scoter Melanitta nigra


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Black Scoter, male
credit: FWS

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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

Description ADULT MALE Has uniformly black plumage. Otherwise dark bill has a striking bulbous yellow knob at base. First-winter male is similar to adult male although plumage is browner and bill color is duller. ADULT FEMALE Mainly dark brown plumage, but with well-defined pale buff cheeks and throat. JUVENILE Resembles an adult female.

Dimensions Length: 17-21" (43-53 cm)

Habitat Locally common. Nests beside tundra pools in Canadian Arctic. Outside breeding season, almost entirely marine and quite at home in rough seas. Winters on North Atlantic seaboard.

Observation Tips In winter, flying Black Scoters are seen in long, trailing lines snaking along horizon. During migration vast flocks may be observed.

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

Voice Displaying males utter whistling calls.

Discussion Rather uniformly dark diving duck. Male is only duck in the region with all-black plumage and female's nearly all dark plumage is relieved only by her contrasting pale cheeks. Relatively long tail is sometimes elevated when swimming. Outside breeding season, Black Scoters are highly gregarious. In flight, all birds look mainly dark, although in good light paler flight feathers can sometimes be discerned.