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Black Scoter


IUCN Conservation Status: Near Threatened

A coastal duck that breeds in the subarctic, the Black Scoter is not well studied in North America. Only a few nests have ever been found.

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Birds of North America Online

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
16.9–20.9 in
43–53 cm
33.1 in
84 cm
30.4–44.8 oz
862–1270 g
Other Names
  • Common Scoter (British)
  • Macreuse à bec jaune (French)
  • Negrón común (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The Black Scoter is divided into two subspecies. In the form found in Europe, the "Common Scoter," the male has a larger swollen knob at the base of the upper bill that is black on the sides with a yellow stripe on top, not entirely yellow.
  • The Black Scoter occasionally does a "Wing-flap" display while swimming, flapping its wings with its body held up out of the water. Unlike other scoters, it almost always punctuates a Wing-flap with a characteristic downward thrust of head, as if its neck were momentarily broken. Surf and White-winged scoters keep their heads and bills pointing more or less above the horizontal throughout a Wing-flap.
  • The Black Scoter is among the most vocal of waterfowl. Groups of Black Scoters often can be located by the constant mellow, plaintive whistling sound of the males.



Breeds on small lakes. Winters in coastal waters, especially over rocky bottoms.



Aquatic invertebrates, especially aquatic insects and mollusks, a little vegetation.


Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
5–10 eggs
Egg Description
Off-white to pinkish buff.
Condition at Hatching
Downy and eyes open. Leave nest soon after they dry. Feed themselves immediately.
Nest Description

Hollow in ground near water, lined with grass and down, placed in large clumps of grass on tundra.

Nest Placement



Surface Dive

Dives for prey on or near bottom.


status via IUCN

Near Threatened

Common. Populations may be declining.


    1. Bellrose, F. C. 1976. Ducks, Geese, and Swans of North America. Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, PA.
    2. Bordage, D., and J. L. Savard. 1995. Black Scoter (Melanitta nigra). In The Birds of North America, No. 177 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, and The American Ornithologists’ Union, Washington, D.C.

Range Map Help

Black Scoter Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings