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

Black Scoter, Melanitta americana

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.

Black Scoter, Melanitta americana

The black scoter or American scoter (Melanitta americana) is a large sea duck, 43 to 49 cm (17 to 19 in) in length. Together with the common scoter M. nigra, it forms the subgenus Oidemia; the two are sometimes considered conspecific, the black scoter then being referred to as M. nigra americana. Its French name, used in parts of its Canadian range, is macreuse noire (also meaning “black scoter”). The species is listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN.

The adult female averages about 980 g (2.16 lb) and 45 cm (18 in) in length, while the adult male is on average 1,100 g (2.4 lb) and 49 cm (19 in) in length. It is characterised by its bulky shape and large bill. The male is all black with a very bulbous bill which is mostly yellow. The female is a brown bird with pale cheeks, very similar to female common scoter.

This species can be distinguished from other scoters, apart from common scoter, by the lack of white anywhere on the drake, and the more extensive pale areas on the female.

The black scoter breeds in the far north of North America in Labrador and Newfoundland to the southeast Hudson Bay. It also occurs on the Siberian side of the Bering Straits east of the Yana River. It winters farther south in temperate zones, on the coasts of the northern USA and Canada, on the Pacific coast south to the San Francisco Bay region and on the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts, and in Asia as far south as China.

Some birds may over-winter on the Great Lakes. This species is a very rare vagrant to western Europe; only drakes are safely identifiable out of range, so females are likely to be undetected.

This species dives for crustaceans and molluscs while migrating or wintering on the sea-coasts, and feeds on insects and their larvae, especially caddisflies, fish eggs and, more rarely, vegetation such as duck weed while nesting on freshwater. It forms large flocks on suitable coastalwaters in winter quarters. These are tightly packed, and the birds tend to take off together; in the breeding season they are less social. It has been suggested that in coastal waters this species prefers sheltered embayments, and possibly waters that include some mixed depths.

The lined nest is built on the ground close to the sea, lakes or rivers, in woodland or tundra. 5–7 eggs are laid. Each eggs weighs from 60–74 g (2.1–2.6 oz), or 8% of the females body weight. The incubation period may range from 27 to 31 days. Females brood their young extensively for about 3 weeks, after which the still flightless young must fend for themselves.

On to my photos:

Black Scoter, Melanitta americana

Black Scoter, Melanitta americana

 

Black Scoter, Melanitta americana

Black Scoter, Melanitta americana

 

Black Scoter, Melanitta americana

Black Scoter, Melanitta americana

 

Black Scoter, Melanitta americana

Black Scoter, Melanitta americana

 

Black Scoter, Melanitta americana

Black Scoter, Melanitta americana

 

Black Scoter, Melanitta americana

Black Scoter, Melanitta americana

 

Juvenile Black Scoter, Melanitta americana

Juvenile Black Scoter, Melanitta americana

 

Juvenile Black Scoter, Melanitta americana

Juvenile Black Scoter, Melanitta americana

 

Juvenile Black Scoter, Melanitta americana

Juvenile Black Scoter, Melanitta americana

 

Juvenile Black Scoter, Melanitta americana

Juvenile Black Scoter, Melanitta americana

This is number 183 in my photo life list, only 167 to go!

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

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19 responses

  1. Very interesting, striking colour of beak on the adult bird.

    January 31, 2016 at 3:34 am

    • Thank you very much Susan!

      January 31, 2016 at 3:42 am

  2. Great shots Jerry!

    January 31, 2016 at 6:46 am

    • Thank you very much Bob!

      January 31, 2016 at 4:59 pm

  3. I like its bill. : )

    January 31, 2016 at 7:17 am

    • Thank you Cornell!

      January 31, 2016 at 4:59 pm

  4. Nice shots! It’s amazing that you got so close to them for the above photos.

    January 31, 2016 at 7:37 am

    • Thank you very much! I lucked out get so close to it.

      January 31, 2016 at 5:00 pm

  5. So, you shot these while they are overwintering in Muskegon? Sounds like they aren’t around all year long. Nice shots!

    January 31, 2016 at 9:23 am

    • Thank you Judy! The male was shot last winter, the juvenile hung around until this past summer.

      January 31, 2016 at 5:01 pm

  6. Awww, so cute, too!!!

    January 31, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    • Thank you very much Lori!

      January 31, 2016 at 5:01 pm

  7. I’m taken by it’s bill. It’s really unusual and quite different than any duck I’ve seen here.

    January 31, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    • Thank you Allen! Many of the arctic ducks have oddly shaped bills as compared to our local puddle ducks.

      January 31, 2016 at 5:02 pm

  8. This is such a handsome bird! Congratulations again Jerry!

    January 31, 2016 at 5:59 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare!

      January 31, 2016 at 6:07 pm

      • My pleasure as always!

        January 31, 2016 at 6:12 pm

  9. Lovely photos of this species! I like the colorful bill.

    February 7, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    • Thank you very much Lavinia!

      February 7, 2016 at 5:43 pm