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White-winged Scoter


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A large black duck of coastal waters, the White-winged Scoter breeds farther inland than the other two scoter species and is the one most likely to appear inland on lakes and rivers during migration.

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
18.9–22.8 in
48–58 cm
31.5 in
80 cm
33.5–63.5 oz
950–1800 g
Other Names
  • Velvet Scoter (British)
  • Macreuse à ailes blanches (French)
  • Negretta aliblanca (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • Although the White-winged Scoter winters primarily along the coasts, small numbers winter on the eastern Great Lakes. Populations on the Great Lakes may have declined during the 1970s, but appear to be increasing in response to the invasion of the zebra mussel, a new and abundant food source.
  • The White-winged Scoter often nests in association with gull breeding colonies. Although the gulls would happily eat the eggs and chicks of the scoter, the dense vegetation where the scoter nests keeps them safe.
  • The White-winged Scoters found in North America and eastern Asia differ from those found in Europe in the structure of the bill and trachea of the male. The European "Velvet Scoter" male has only a slight swelling on the top of the bill, and the bill is yellow, not orange. The two forms sometimes are regarded as distinct species.
  • The oldest recorded White-winged Scoter was a female, and at least 18 years, 1 month old when she was observed at a nest in Saskatchewan, Canada.



Breeds on large freshwater or brackish lakes and ponds. Winters in coastal estuaries, bays, and open coastline with shallow water over shellfish beds.



Mollusks (especially clams and mussels), crustaceans, and insects; occasionally aquatic plants and fish.


Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
6–16 eggs
Egg Description
Creamy buff or light pink.
Condition at Hatching
Downy and eyes open. Leave nest soon after they dry. Feed themselves immediately.
Nest Description

Hollow in ground in dense cover away from water, lined with down and twigs.

Nest Placement



Surface Dive

Dives for prey on or near bottom.


status via IUCN

Least Concern

White-winged Scoter is not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List. Though the species is common, populations may be declining.


  • Brown, P. W., and L. H. Fredrickson. 1997. White-winged Scoter (Melanitta fusca). In The Birds of North America, No. 274 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
  • North American Bird Conservation Initiative, U.S. Committee. 2014. State of the Birds 2014 Report. U.S. Department of Interior, Washington, DC.
  • USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. 2015. Longevity records of North American Birds.

Range Map Help

White-winged Scoter Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings


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bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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