Surf Scoter

Melanitta perspicillata

Order

ANSERIFORMES

Family

Ducks, Geese and Swans (Anatidae)

Code 4

SUSC

Code 6

MELPER

ITIS

ILLUSTRATION

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PHOTOS

CONSERVATION STATUS

Least Concern

The Surf Scoter is a large sea duck that prefers to breed throughout Canada and Alaska. In winter months, this bird will migrate southward to warmer climates, including the northern coasts of the United States, Western Europe, Great Britain and Ireland and the Great Lakes. Large flocks are also formed over coastal waters in cold weather. Nests are built on the ground close to the water in woods or tundra. Diets consist of crustaceans and mollusks found by diving in the water, but the young feed on freshwater invertebrates. The conservation rating for the Surf Scoter is Least Concern.

IBIRD EXPLORER GENERAL

PHOTO SHARING AND DISCUSSION

BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY

SUMMARY

Overview

Surf Scoter: This medium-sized diving duck is entirely black except for white patches on the forehead and nape. It has an orange, black and white bill, white eyes and orange legs and feet. The female is less distinctly marked with smudgy face patches and dark bill. It dives for food, primarily mollusks and crustaceans. Rapid direct flight with strong wing beats. Flies in straight line formation.

 

Range and Habitat

Surf Scoter: Breeds in Alaska and across northern Canada to Labrador. Spends winters mainly along coasts, from Alaska south to California and from Newfoundland south to Florida, and rarely into Texas. Breeds on northern lakes and spends winters almost entirely on the ocean and in large coastal bays.

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Surf Scoter SONGS AND CALLS

Surf Scoter A1

Wing whistles and "puk-puk" calls of a displaying male.

Surf Scoter A2

Wing whistles from a male bird taking flight.

Similar Sounding


Voice Text

Generally silent

INTERESTING FACTS

  • The Surf Scoter has a boldly patterned head that is the basis for its colloquial name "skunk-headed coot." The only scoter confined as a breeding species to America, they are among the least studied of northern waterfowl.
  • Gulls often force surfacing ducks to relinquish their prey, thus flocks frequently dive in unison. This possibly promotes synchronous surfacing, when groups are less likely to be kleptoparasitized than individual ducks.
  • Rarely diving in water that exceeds 30 feet deep, they forage in the zone of breaking waves, and habitually dive through foaming wave crests.
  • A group of ducks has many collective nouns, including a "brace", "flush", "paddling", "raft", and "team" of ducks.

SIMILAR BIRDS

RANGE MAP NORTH AMERICA

About this North America Map

This map shows how this species is distributed across North America.

RANGE MAP HAWAII

About this Hawaii Map

This map shows how this species is distributed across the Hawaiian island.

FAMILY DESCRIPTION

TERMINOLOGY

CREDITS

Author

Gary Owen Dick

Artist

Yury Lisyak

HELP ME IDENTIFY A BIRD

BACKYARD BIRDING

BIRDS AND BIRDING

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FaceX
The front part of the head consisting of the bill, eyes, cheeks and chin.
NapeX
Also called the hindneck or collar, it is the back of the neck where the head joins the body.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X