SURF SCOTER


Melanitta perspicillata


Description:

One of three New World scoter species. This bird is most common during winter months, when it can be seen diving for mollusks and crustaceans. They use their large beaks to rip shellfish from rocks; swallowing their find whole. Scoters often feed in large groups. They are stocky birds and often "scoot" and feed along the breaking surf (from which it is named). The white patches on the males head are used for threat displays, which simply involves turning its head to show the white nape.


Appearance:

General: 18-21 inches in length.

Male: Completely black plumage. White patch on nape and forehead. White eye. Large, humped, and colorful (red, orange and white) bill. The base of the bill is unfeathered and gives the appearance of a large black spot on both sides. Sloped forehead. Red legs. No wing patches. Immature male similar to female.

Female: Entirely dark brown plumage. Whitish mid-belly. Dark crown. Plain (dark) bill. Two white cheek patches. Immature females slightly paler.


Habitat:

Coastal ocean water and large coastal bays. Breeds on northern lakes.


Nesting:

5-8 pinkish-buff colored eggs. The eggs have a ? day incubation period. Fledging occurs in ? days. The nest is a down lined depression built under a bush or in marsh vegetation, but not necessarily near water.


Observed Locations:

  • Crown Point, Mission Bay
  • San Diego Bay
  • Pacific Ocean near Tijuana River Mouth, Imperial Beach





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Adult Male

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Copyright © Scott Streit, 2000.