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Identification of Black Scoter

Male Black Scoter

Black Scoter – Length: 19 inches  Wing span: 28 inches

Due to its remote northern breeding areas, much of what is known about Black Scoters range and reproduction has been learned relatively recently. Pairs are generally solitary, though while molting and during winter larger flocks may form. Rushing chases by Black Scoter males may occur during courtship.

It is thought that Black Scoters do not breed until age two, and there is little data to indicate how long they typically live. Both hunting and oil spills are known sources of mortality, but relatively little information is available regarding the major sources of mortality.


Female Black Scoter

Adult females have a pale cheek and neck with a darker cap. The amount of yellow on the bill varies and is not always visible. First winter males resemble females but will have a paler chest.  Photograph by Glenn Bartley. 

Male Black Scoter

Calling male. Nesting occurs in Alaska and northeastern Canada, resulting in two distinct populations. Photograph © Alan Wilson.

Black Scoters

Note the single female in this small group of males.  Photograph by Glenn Bartley.

Black Scoters

The same group of birds, the female is now on the right, with the head down as the bird preens. Note the contrast between the dark crown and the pale cheeks.  Photograph by Glenn Bartley.

Black Scoters

Female. Note the thin bill and high forehead. Photograph © Alan Wilson.


About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

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