Black Scoter

Melanitta americana

Image of a Black scoter, Melanitta americana, in the water.
Image by Aaron Maizlish on Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

Physical: The male Black Scoter is a striking bird, entirely black with the exception of its bright orange-yellow bill and a small white patch on the wing. It measures about 17 to 21 inches in length and has a wingspan of roughly 33 inches. Females are more muted, with dark brown plumage and a paler face, and a dark cap that contrasts with the lighter cheek.

Habitat: Black Scoters frequent coastal marine environments, especially during non-breeding seasons. They can be found on open waters, bays, and estuaries. For breeding, they prefer freshwater lakes and ponds in northern boreal forests or Arctic tundra.

Feeding: Diving beneath the water’s surface, Black Scoters search for mollusks, crustaceans, and small fish. They have a particular fondness for mussels and will often be seen in areas abundant in this shellfish.

Breeding: Nesting on the ground, usually close to freshwater, the female scoter lays a clutch of about 5-9 eggs in a well-hidden spot among dense vegetation. She assumes the primary role of incubation. Once the chicks hatch, they are led to water within a day or two, where they start learning to forage under the watchful eyes of their mother.

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