Return to Easily Identify Diving Ducks   

White Winged Scoter

Melanitta fusca

Diving Ducks Family

Waterfowl Identification

Male White Winged Scoter
Female White Winged Scoter
Similar Waterfowl:
Female Surf Scooter
The white-winged scoter is the largest of the three North American scoter species. The large white speculum on the black wing make this scoter species the easiest to identify while in flight. Male white-winged scoters are entirely black with white eye patches. The bill is orange becoming red at the tip with a large black knob at the base. The legs and feet are reddish-orange with dusky webs and the iris is pale gray. Female white-winged scoters are a dark brownish-black color with two whitish patches on the sides of their heads, in front of and behind the eye. The bill is blackish-gray with a less prominent black knob at the base. The legs and feet are dull orange and the iris is brown.
Typical Size:
The male and female average 21 inches in length and weigh 3 1/4 pounds. They have a wingspan of 38 inches.
They favor large brackish or freshwater wetlands and lakes in their breeding range with the highest concentrations on lakes that have islands covered with dense low shrubs or herbaceous vegetation.
The white-winged scoter nests on freshwater lakes and wetlands in the northwestern interior of North America. Female white-winged scoters typically nest beneath dense vegetation and lay an average of 9 eggs.
White-winged scoters dive to feed on mollusks, crustaceans, aquatic insects, and small fishes found in marine and freshwater habitats. The summer diet also includes pondweeds and bur reeds in inland areas.
The winter range of white-winged scoters includes the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, where they prefer coastal environments, especially bays and inlets. They migrate to the Atlantic and Pacific coasts from breeding areas in northwestern Canada and Alaska.
Flyway Patterns:
The white winged scoter can be commonly found along the coastal flyways.
Flight Formation:
Large flocks in irregular "V" or line. They fly low over water with a strong and direct flight with speeds at 60 MPH.
The males have a hoarse CROAK and the females have a short CROAK.

White Winged Scoter Flight Characteristics

This guide will help you recognize White Winged Scoter on the wing - it emphasizes their size, shape, and flight characteristics. These scoters, like all scoters, are sea ducks and winter on open coastal waters. They are among the heaviest and largest of all ducks.