Surf Scoter

Melanitta perspicillata




Ducks, Geese and Swans (Anatidae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:

Pale buff, light pink or buff white

Number of Eggs:

5 - 8

Incubation Days:

25 - 30

Egg Incubator:


Nest Location:

On ground.

Nest Material:

Grass lined with down.





Surf Scoter: Medium-sized diving duck; entirely black except for white patches on forehead and nape. Bill is orange, black and white. Eyes are white. Female is smaller and has dark brown upperparts; white cheek and ear patches; paler brown underparts with faint bars on sides; dark bill and eyes. Legs and feet are duller yellow-orange. Eclipse female is similar but is more uniform brown. Juvenile is similar but has a paler breast; dark brown head from above eyes; lacks white nape patch; has more conspicuous white markings on head.

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.

Breeding and Nesting

Surf Scoter: Five to eight pale buff, light pink or buff white eggs are laid in a down-lined depression hidden under a bush or in marsh vegetation, not necessarily near water. Incubation is carried out by the female and ranges from 25 to 30 days.

Foraging and Feeding

Surf Scoter: Their diet includes mollusks, crustaceans, aquatic insects, small fish, aquatic plants and seeds. They feed on herring eggs whenever available during spring migration. They forage by diving from the surface. Food is captured mostly underwater. In marine waters, they prey on stationary organisms.


Surf Scoter: Generally silent, but sometimes makes a low, throaty sound. During courtship, male whistles and makes a gurgling call.

Similar Species

Surf Scoter: Male Black Scoter lacks white on head; male White-winged Scoter has white eye and wing patches.


Belly, undertail coverts, chest, flanks, and foreneck.

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