Daily Bird: Black Scoter
December 11, 2020
Edited and revised from 2013.
By Milan Bull, Senior Director of Science and Conservation
There are numerous places to see Black Scoters along the shore — see the map below — but they are rare visitors to Connecticut’s fresh water.
Black Scoters breed in subarctic regions and winter in coastal areas along both coasts. Diving ducks (rather than dabblers like Mallards), they dive to find crustaceans and mollusks to eat.
What they look like: Black Scoters are small, stocky diving ducks slightly smaller than a Mallard but larger than a teal. The adult males are all black with a yellow knob at the base of the upper bill. Juveniles and females are grey-brown with a dark cap and lighter cheeks.
Look for small groups of diving ducks in open water off shore. Scoters are not usually found in shallow waters near shore like Mallards and Black Ducks. If you have a spotting scope, be sure to bring it.
Even if you can’t find a Black Scoter, you’re almost certain to find other interesting ducks at this time of year. Almost anything could show up. If you’re checking inland, look especially for American Wigeon, Pintails, and Green-winged Teal among the Mallards and Black Ducks. Along the Sound, look for Long-tailed Ducks and Surf and White-winged Scoters, Buffleheads and Common Goldeneye, and Red-breasted Merganser.
Conservation status: Black Scoters are listed as Near Threatened by the American Bird Conservancy.