Surf Scoter

Melanitta perspicillata

Image of a surf scoter, Melanitta perspicillata, in the water.
Image by ‘_quintin_’ on Flickr, public domain

Physical: The male Surf Scoter is hard to miss with its striking and peculiar facial features. It’s a medium to large sea duck, predominantly black, but its head exhibits a bold white patch on the forehead and the nape, coupled with a multicolored bill in hues of red, orange, yellow, and white. The female, in contrast, has a subtler look with a dark brown body, lighter cheek patches, and a more subdued bill. The Surf Scoter measures approximately 19 inches in length with a wingspan around 31 inches.

Habitat: Surf Scoters are marine birds, typically found along the coastlines. They prefer shallow coastal waters, estuaries, and bays. During breeding season, they head inland to freshwater lakes and ponds within boreal forests.

Feeding: Diving for their meals, Surf Scoters primarily feast on mollusks like mussels and clams. They also eat crustaceans, aquatic insects, and small fish. Their stout bills are well-adapted to prying shellfish from the seabed.

Breeding: During breeding season, Surf Scoters head to the freshwater lakes and ponds of the northern boreal forest. The female selects a concealed spot, usually in dense vegetation, to create a ground nest. She lays a clutch of 5-9 eggs and takes on the responsibility of incubation. Once hatched, the mother leads her chicks to water and guards them diligently as they forage and grow.

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