Surf Scoter

Scientific Name: Malanitta Perspicillata

Diet: Surf Scoters mainly eat a variety of aquatic food including aquatic worms, crustaceans, small fish, aquatic insects, and aquatic plants. During the breeding season Surf Scoters eat mainly aquatic insect larvae, but in the non-breeding season their diets change to mollusks and crustaceans.

Habitat: Surf Scoters breed on lakes in somewhat-open areas in the arctic. During the winter they live on open bays, inlets, and estuaries, and prefers rocky substrate.

Range: Surf Scoters breed in Alaska and northern Canada, and during the winter they live down the eastern and western U.S. coasts down to Mexico. In Washington, Surf Scoters can be found in the Puget Sound and all along the coast.

Sound: Although Surf Scoters are mostly silent, the male has a low whistle, and the female’s call is a croak.

Nesting: Surf Scoters arrive in the breeding areas in May and June. The nest is a small depression in the ground, usually near water, well hidden by shrubs, bushes, and low tree branches, and it is lined with plants and down. The female lays 6 to 9 eggs, and she incubates them for 28 to 30 days. The male leaves her when incubation starts. When the young hatch they are downy and can feed themselves immediately, but they stay with the female for a while after hatching.

Behavior: Surf Scoters dive from the surface of the water to catch prey at or near the bottom of the water. They also take mussels from man-made structures. They need a running start to take off and fly.

Description/Field Marks: Surf Scoters are about 19 to 24 inches long, with a wingspan of about 30 inches. The males are black all over except for the head, nape, and bill. There is a white spot between the eyes (which are white), and a rectangle of white goes from the back of the head down the nape. The bill is bright orange, with a large white spot at the base and a smaller black spot on the white spot. The female is duller, with a grey body, instead of the jet black of the males, and a black bill. There is a white blotch on their cheeks.



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