My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Surf Scoter, Melanitta perspicillata

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Surf Scoter, Melanitta perspicillata

The Surf Scoter is a large sea duck, which breeds in Canada and Alaska. It is placed in the subgenus Melanitta, along with the Velvet and White-winged Scoters, distinct from the subgenus Oidemia, Black and Common Scoters.

It winters further south in temperate zones, on the coasts of the northern United States. Small numbers regularly winter in western Europe as far south as the British Isles. Some birds may over-winter on the Great Lakes. It forms large flocks on suitable coastal waters. These are tightly packed, and the birds tend to take off together.

The lined nest is built on the ground close to the sea, lakes or rivers, in woodland or tundra. 5–9 eggs are laid. An egg may range from 55–79 g (1.9–2.8 oz) and average 43.9 mm (1.73 in) in breadth and 62.4 mm (2.46 in) in length. Occasional (and likely accidental) brood mixing between different females occurs in areas with high densities of nests. Growth is relatively rapid and the incubation period is about 28 to 30 days. The offspring will fledge independently at about 55 days.

The adult female averages about 900 g (2.0 lb) and 44 cm (17 in) in length, while the adult male is on average 1,050 g (2.31 lb) and 48 cm (19 in) in length, making this the smallest species of scoter on average. It is characterised by its bulky shape and large bill. The male is all black, except for white patches on the nape and forehead. It has a bulbous red, yellow and white bill. The females are brown birds with pale head patches. The wedge-shaped head and lack of white in the wings helps to distinguish female Surf Scoters from female Velvet Scoters.

Adult scoters of this species dive for crustaceans and mollusks, while the ducklings live off any variety of freshwater invertebrates.

On to my photos:

Male surf scoter

Male surf scoter

Male surf scoter

Male surf scoter

Male surf scoter

Male surf scoter

Male surf scoter

Male surf scoter

Male surf scoter

Male surf scoter

Male surf scoter

Male surf scoter

This is number 145 in my photo life list, only 205 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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15 responses

  1. Don’t think I’ve ever seen one, but the name sure makes me smile.

    February 11, 2014 at 9:33 am

    • I’d think that you’d remember that colorful bill if you had seen one, it is somewhat rare to see one in Michigan.

      February 11, 2014 at 9:39 am

  2. What an unusual face and beak, I love him!!! Great shots

    February 11, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    • Thank you!

      February 11, 2014 at 1:18 pm

  3. That’s an odd duck!

    February 11, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    • For sure, love that bill!

      February 12, 2014 at 1:45 am

  4. I truly love this series in the snow. What a wonderful post.

    February 11, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    • Well, it wasn’t as if I had a choice, it snows here almost every day, but thanks.

      February 12, 2014 at 1:44 am

  5. Fantastic, congrats Jerry! 🙂

    February 12, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    • Thanks Donna!

      February 13, 2014 at 2:27 am

  6. Is that bill a special adaptation for eating crustaceans, do you think? A very interesting looking duck! Thx for sharing!!!

    February 13, 2014 at 11:48 am

    • I’m not sure what that bill is for, other than making them easy to spot and ID from a distance. 😉

      February 14, 2014 at 2:15 am

      • Perfect!

        February 14, 2014 at 6:47 am

  7. What an interesting looking bird! I always learn so much visiting your blog.

    February 15, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    • Thanks Kathy, you should keep an eye out for these in the bays up there, they have to go past you to get back to where they nest.

      February 15, 2014 at 4:47 pm