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Surf Scoter -Melanitta perspicillata



 Kingdom: Animalia
 Phylum: Chordata
 Class: Aves
 Order: Anseriformes
 Family: Anatidae
 Genus: Melanitta
ICUN Redlist - World Status: Least ConcernLeast Concern


Surf ScoterThe surf scoter is a large sea duck measuring 19-24 inches in length. It got the nickname, "skunk-headed coot" from the black and white patterns on its head. Males and females look different.

Males are a deep black color, with one or two white patches on their heads. they have large bills that are is swollen at the base. The bill looks orange from far away, but is really white, red, yellow and black. Its eyes are light blue or yellow and its feet are reddish-orange. Females are a lighter black and their bills are not as as large as the male and looks greenish-black, not red, from far away.


mapThe surf scoter has a very large range. It breeds from western Alaska through Central Labrador in Canada. In the winter, the surf scoter lives along the Pacific and Atlantic coast in North America. Its winter range extends as far south as Baja California on the west coast and down to South Carolina on the east coast. Although not native to the area, the surf scoter has also been found as far away as Russia!


Surf ScoterThe surf scoter lives in both freshwater and marine habitats. In the summer, it lives and breeds on small bodies of fresh water in boreal forests or tundra landscapes. In the winter, the surf scoter lives in shallow ocean bays, estuaries and mouths of rivers along the west and east coast. It prefers habitats with pebble or sandy bottoms.


Surf ScoterThe surf scoter is a diving duck. It feeds on bottom-dwelling creatures. Its primary food source is mollusks. It also eats crustaceans, such as razor clams, worms and echinoderms. In the summer, the surf scoter eats insects, insect larvae and plant matter.

Life Cycle

Surf ScoterBreeding begins in May or June, while the surf scoter is living on small bodies of fresh water in boreal forests or tundra landscapes. Females make their nests in shallow depressions along the water and line them with grass, plant material and feathers.

The female lays 6-9 creamy white eggs. The chicks hatch with downy feathers and their eyes open. Mothers protect their eggs only until the chicks hatch. Since mothers aren't very protective of their young, it is common for young surf scoters to get mixed up with the wrong family on crowded lakes. Once the chicks are dry, they leave the nest and are able to feed themselves immediately.


Surf ScoterAlthough adult surf scoters fly back north for the summer, some young surf scoters don't. Instead, they spend the summer along the coast of Baja California or New Jersey.

Audio Credit: xeno-canto.org Andrew Spencer cc logo