White-winged Scoter — Length: 21 inches, Wing span: 33 inches
The large sea duck known as the White-winged Scoter in North America for the large, obvious patches of white in its wings is known as the Velvet Scoter in Europe, for the satiny-black plumage of the males. White-winged Scoters migrate mostly by day over land, but may travel either at night or by day over water.
White-winged Scoters typically begin breeding at age two or three. Females often return to the same general breeding area in subsequent nesting seasons. Gulls are major predators of young chicks, but those that survive may live a long time. The oldest known White-winged Scoter lived over 18 years in the wild.
Young birds resemble adult female.
Males are distinctive with the white check mark around the eye. Sides browner than chest and back. Pink and orange on the bill with knob at the base.
The center bird has the uniformly dark head of an adult White-winged Scoter. But what about the other two birds? The bill shape and color say scoter but which one? First winter females of both Surf and White-winged Scoters have 2 white face patches that vary in size and shape and are very similar in appearance. And all three scoter species can be found in mixed flocks. There are subtle differences in head and bill shape but it takes a lot of experience to tell them apart when the birds are far away and moving up and down with the waves.