Beak of the Week – Black Scoter

Black Scoter (Melanitta nigra)

Family: Anatidae

The Black Scoter is a medium-sized duck, but is the smallest species of the sea-dwelling scoters. Both male and females have a small and straight bill, although the male’s bill is also adorned with a bright yellow knob. These ducks occasionally occur in mixed flocks with other scoter species. One identifying feature of the Black Scoter is its bill, which is smaller and straighter than the Surf and White-winged Scoters. Male Black Scoters are characteristically black, whereas females are brown with pale cheeks and a contrasting dark brown cap. These birds breed in clumps of grass near lakes in the tundra, and they spend their winters near the coastline, particularly on rocky shorelines. There are populations that winter on the east and west coast of Canada and the United States, as well as along the northern portion of the Gulf Coast (including the Upper Texas Coast). Their diet consists mainly of aquatic invertebrates, preferring mollusks and aquatic insects. This species of scoter is the most vocal, mainly giving a musical whistling call during breeding season. Overall, the Black Scoter is one of the least studied species of duck, and much more research is needed to fully gain insight on the lives of these birds.

We recently saw an impressive single flock of 31 Black Scoters that flew within 20 yards of shore at the High Island sea-watch!

 Visit our Bird Gallery to read about other Texas birds! 

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