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Black Scoter

These large sea ducks are found near North-East Canada, Alaska, and Siberia.

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.


Description of the Black Scoter


The Black Scoter is a sea duck with a stocky build and mostly dark plumage.

– Black plumage.
– Yellow knob on bill.

Black Scoters

Photograph © Glenn Bartley.

Male Black Scoter

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


Brownish plumage with a paler lower face and throat.

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.

Black Scoters

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

Black Scoters

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

Seasonal change in appearance



Similar to adult females.


Coastal areas.


Mollusks and insects.

Black Scoters


Forages by diving.


Breeds in Alaska and northeastern Canada and winters along both coasts of North America. Population generally stable.


Fun Facts

Black Scoters are rare visitors to large inland lakes during the winter.

While usually seen in pairs during the breeding season, scoters often form small flocks during the winter.



Males make a long whistling sound.


Similar Species

White-winged Scoter

White-winged Scoters have white wing patches, white below and behind the eye.

Surf Scoters

Male Surf Scoters have white head patches, while females have dark faces with small white patches


The nest is plant-lined depression on the ground.

Number: 8-9.
Color: White or buff.

Incubation and fledging:
– Young hatch at 27-31 days.
– Young fledge (leave the nest) soon after hatching but remain with the female for some time.

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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