Comprehensive Guide to selected species of:
Birds of the Boreal Forest « back to Guide
Black Scoter Melanitta nigra
Family: Ducks and Geese, Anatidae
An estimated 84% of the species' North American population breeds within the Boreal Forest.
Description 17-21" (43-53 cm). Male black; bill black with large yellow knob at base. Female duller, with pale cheeks and all-dark bill. Both sexes show silvery wing linings in flight.
Habitat Breeds on ponds in boreal forests; winters on oceans and in large saltwater bays.
Nesting 5-8 pale buff eggs in a down-lined cup of grass hidden in a rock crevice or clump of grass near edge of water.
Voice In spring a musical whistled cour-loo.
Range Breeds in western Alaska, Labrador, and Newfoundland. Winters along coasts from Alaska south to California, from Newfoundland south to Carolinas, along portions of Gulf Coast, and on Great Lakes. Also in Eurasia.
Discussion Scoters are gregarious, and the three species often feed together, gathering over submerged reefs where mollusks, barnacles, chitons, and limpets abound. Newly hatched young remain on fresh water for several days, feeding on small freshwater mussels and the larvae of aquatic insects before moving to salt water. The Black Scoter is the least common of the three in North America, numbering about 500,000; it is more numerous and deserving of its former name, "Common Scoter," in parts of Eurasia.