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Common Scoter

Melanitta nigra

Diving Ducks Family

Waterfowl Identification

 
Male Common Scoter
male
Female Common Scoter
female
Similar Waterfowl:
None
Description:
Common scoters are among the most vocal of waterfowl species. Male common scoters are entirely black except for a yellow protuberance on the base of the bill and the gray lower surface of the flight feathers. The legs and feet are dusky and the iris is brown. Female common scoters are dark brown with light whitish cheeks, chin and throat, which contrast with a dark crown. The legs and feet are dusky and the iris is brown.
Typical Size:
The male and female average 19 inches in length and weigh 2 1/2 pounds. They have a wingspan of 32 inches.
Habitat:
Black scoters prefer to nest in large clumps of tundra grass and swamp and pond areas.
Breeding:
In North America, common scoters breed in western and southern Alaska, the Aleutian Islands, and scattered areas in central and eastern Canada, including southern Keewatin, northern Quebec, and Newfoundland. They also are found from southern Yukon and Mackenzie east to Labrador and Newfoundland and lay 8 to 9 eggs.
Diet:
Common scoters dive to feed on mollusks, crustaceans, and small fishes found in marine and freshwater habitats. Their diet also includes small amounts of eelgrass, muskgrass, widgeon grass, pondweeds, and algae found in inland habitats.
Migration:
Major wintering areas for common scoters include the Pacific coast from the Pribilof and Aleutian Islands to southern California, the Great Lakes, and the Atlantic coast from Newfoundland to South Carolina.
Flyway Patterns:
The common scoter can be most commonly found along the coastal flyways.
Flight Formation:
Irregular groups or lines. They fly low over water. Flight is strong and swift which causes their wings to whistle in flight. They reach speeds of 60 MPH.
Voice:
The males have a melodious COUR-LEW and the females have a harsh QUACK.

Common Scoter Flight Characteristics

This guide will help you recognize Common Scoter (also called Coots) on the wing - it emphasizes their size, shape, and flight characteristics. When in flight, the drakes appear all black with a flash of the gray under the wing and bright yellow at the base of the upper bill. Like the other Scoters, they primarily feed on mullusks, crabs, and fish.

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