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Common Scoter - BirdForum Opus

Photo by Rob
The Netherlands, February 2003
Melanitta nigra


Male: All black; very bulbous bill with some yellow.
Female: Brown with pale cheeks and may have some yellow around the nostils.

Photo by IanF
Hartlepool, Cleveland. UK, December 2008

Similar Species

Females can be confused with female Red-crested Pochard which has a white wing bar and Long-tailed Duck which has a smaller bill and much whiter underparts.


Northern Eurasia; winters western Europe to Mediterranean and Caspian Sea. There are a few breeding areas in northern Scotland and Ireland.


This is a monotypic species.

It was formerly thought to be conspecific with Black Scoter.


Winters on sea-coasts, usually at some distance from the shore.
Breeds on inland lakes or rivers, in woodland or tundra.

Photo by Carpie
Terschelling, Holland, December 2007


  • Gregarious, may form very large flocks, especially with Velvet Scoter.
  • Pointed tail is often raised.
  • Spring migration takes place overland at night.
  • Autumn migration is along the coast during the day.


  • Flies low to the water in long lines. Flight is strong and rapid.
  • Dives with a small leap.


The diet includes crustaceans and molluscs, insects and their larvae, fish eggs and vegetation such as duck weed while nesting on freshwater.


The nest is built on the ground. The clutch consists of 5-7 eggs and are incubated for 27 to 31 days.


<flashmp3>Melanitta nigra (song).mp3</flashmp3>


  1. Clements, JF. 2010. The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World. 6th ed., with updates to December 2010. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0801445019. Spreadsheet available at http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/Clements%206.5.xls/view
  2. Avibase
  3. Birdwatchers Pocket Guide ISBN 1-85732-804-3
  4. Collins Pocket Guide to British Birds 1966
  5. Collins Field Guide 5th Edition
  6. Collins Bird Guide ISBN 0 00 219728 6
  7. 51st supplement to the AOU checklist of North American birds

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