Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata)

While feeding, this species scoots, or 'scotes' through breaking waves, hence its common name.


At up to 50 cm in length, males are slightly larger than females and differ in colouration. The male has a black body with white patches on its forehead and neck. Its bill is red with a black and white knob. The female has a paler black body with white patches on her cheek and the base of her bill, which is large and grey, and lacking a knob.


The surf scoter breeds in northwestern North America, on Hudson Bay, and in northern Quebec and Labrador. Winter populations occur on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of North America, and in the Great Lakes.


The surf scoter nests on the ground along both the Pacific coast and the interior. It constructs its nests with marsh grass and line it with down. The seldom seen nests are superbly camouflaged in clumps of small trees or shrubs.

The surf scoter eats mostly aquatic invertebrates, particularly mollusks, crustaceans, and aquatic insects. It will only rarely eat aquatic plants. In some localities, fish eggs make up a considerable proportion of its diet. The surf scoter feeds like many other sea ducks, by surface diving and picking up food from the bottom or the water column.