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  ScienceZoologyBirdsOrder Anseriformes
male Surf ScoterSurf Scoter

Melanitta perspicillata


This large, stocky diving duck is 19 to 24 inches long, has a wingspan of about 30 inches, and weighs between 2 and 4 pounds.

The male is entirely black except for one or two white patches on the face. He has a large bill that is patterned with white, red, yellow, and black patch near the base. His eyes are pale blue-gray or yellowish white, and his feet are reddish orange with dusky webs. The female is a duller black and has less distinct face patches. Her bill is green-black with an indistinct black patch surrounded by gray at the base of the upper bill. She has pale brown eyes, and yellow to brownish red feet with dull black webs.

distribution of the Surf Scoter in North AmericaDistribution and Habitat

Surf scoters breed on freshwater lakes in Alaska and northern Canada, and winter in shallow marine coastal waters along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of North America.


The nest is a hollow on the ground, near water, lined with vegetative debris and down, into which 6 to 9 creamy white eggs are laid.

Mothers provide very little care for their young, and accidental exchanges of young among surf scoter broods are frequent on crowded lakes.


Surf scoters feed primarily on freshwater invertebrates, especially mollusks, found on or near the bottom of shallow waters.

Habits and Behaviors

During the breeding season the male will defend a moving area around the female.

Scientific Classification

phylum Chordata
subphylum Vertebrata
class Aves
order Anseriformes
family Anatidae
subfamily Anatinae
genus & species Melanitta perspicillata

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This page was last updated on September 11, 2015.

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