Comprehensive Guide to selected species of:
Birds of the Boreal Forest « back to Guide
White-winged Scoter Melanitta fusca
Family: Ducks and Geese, Anatidae
An estimated 86% of the species' North American population breeds within the Boreal Forest.
Description 19-24" (48-61 cm). Male black with bold white wing patches, white crescents around eyes, and yellow bill with black knob at base. Females are dull brown, with 2 whitish facial spots and white wing patches.
Habitat Breeds on large lakes; winters mainly on the ocean and on large coastal bays, but a few remain on lakes in the interior.
Nesting 5-17 buff or pink eggs in a hollow lined with sticks and down, under a bush, or in a crevice near water, often on an island in a lake.
Voice Soft whistles and guttural croaks.
Range Breeds in Alaska and much of western and central Canada. Winters along coasts, from Alaska south to California and from Newfoundland south to Carolinas, rarely to Florida and Texas. Also in Eurasia.
Discussion During migration, long irregular lines consisting of thousands of White-winged Scoters move southward, just offshore and only a few feet above the waves. The most abundant and widespread of the three scoters-there are over a million in North America-this species feeds chiefly on mollusks, which it collects from mussel beds at depths of 15 to 40 feet (5 to 12 meters). These birds also feed on crabs, starfish, sea urchins, and some fish. Sociable birds, they gather in large flocks or rafts, both to feed and to sleep at night. Like all birds that dive and rest on the sea, they are vulnerable to oil spills.