Surf Scoter Ducks

Surf Scoter Ducks are found in the Pacific Northwest. Ducks who are not breeders anymore will stay here all year round. Male Surf Scoter Ducks are entirely black with a white patch on the forehead and a larger white triangle on the back of the neck, they have large bills, that bulge where it joins the head, the black feathers extending to near the nostrils.

The bill is multicolored white, red, yellow and black, but looks mostly orange from a distance. The legs and feet are reddish-orange with dusky webs, and the iris is white. The female is fairly uniformly colored dark to black-brown, with occasional whitish feathers. There are two whitish patches on the cheeks below the eyes. The bill is greenish-black and the legs and feet are dull orange, the eye is pale or light brown.

Surf Scoter, Vancouver Island, BC
Surf Scoter, Vancouver Island, BC, photo by Bud Logan

The female plumage of all scoter species is similar. The surf scoter hen can be differentiated from the black scoter only by the more sloping forehead and white face patches. The surf scoter occurs only in North America. They are virtually unstudied, particularly during the breeding season.

Surf scoters breed on shallow freshwater lakes found in the boreal forests of northern Canada and Alaska. Female surf scoters prefer to nest in brushy tundra or wooded areas near a pond, bog, or stream and lay up to 8 eggs. Western surf scoters molt along the coast of British Columbia and Alaska, and in the Bering Sea. During migration, they use coastal estuaries, inshore ocean areas, and occasionally freshwater habitats near the coast.

Surf Scoter, Vancouver Island, BC
Surf Scoter, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Bud Logan

They winter in shallow marine coastal waters of coastal western North America and all of Vancouver Island. The surf scoter feeds mainly on mollusks, crustaceans, aquatic insects, small fish, and on green plant matter such as pondweeds, wild celery, and the seeds of sedges and bulrushes.

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