The Black Scoter Ducks of the Pacific Northwest
The Black Scoter is a medium sized diving duck, entirely black except for yellowish orange knob at base of its black bill. The legs and feet are black. The male is the only all black duck in North America. It is a strong flier with rapid wing beats. The female is a sooty brownish color with a dark cap contrasting sharply with pale grayish brown feathers on rest of head. Sides and flanks are paler with a slight barring. Bill is either not swollen or only slightly so, it may have a bit of yellow showing there. The immature bird is similar to adult female but with white belly.
The black scoter breeds in western Alaska, Labrador, and Newfoundland and spends winters along coasts from Alaska south to California, from Newfoundland south to the Carolina’s, along portions of the Gulf coast, and on the Great Lakes. We have a large winter population on the BC Coast.
This species dives for crustaceans and mollusks while wintering on the coasts and feeds on insects and their larvae, especially caddisflies and fish eggs while nesting on freshwater.
They form large rafts of birds on suitable coastal waters in the winter. These are tightly packed and appear to provide warmth and when the birds take flight, they do so all at once, quite fascinating to observe. During the breeding season they are much more territorial. The nest is built close to the water and is lined to keep the eggs warm. Up to 7 eggs are laid. The incubation period may range from 28 to 32 days.
Females care for their young for about 3 weeks after hatching, after that, the still flightless young birds must fend for themselves.