Monday, March 27, 2023

Surf Scoter

The surf scoter is a sea duck that I first saw in January 2022 at Bolsa Chica in Huntington Beach. I had no idea what it was and only found out after submitting a photo of it to iNaturalist. I'd never heard of it before. A sea duck is a duck "adapted to a life at sea [w]ith most spending a considerable portion of the year along our coasts, the majority of these...breed in northern areas such as the Canadian Arctic and Alaska." 
Surf scoter at Bolsa Chica - my only photo there.
I took a pelagic bird trip in March 2023 with Island Packers Cruises and we saw flocks of them at very long distances near Anacapa Island in Channel Island National Park. 
Males (left) and females (right).

The male surf scoter is black, with white patches on the forehead and nape, a large bill that looks orange at a distance but is patterned with white, red and yellow and a black spot near the base that looks like a hole in the beak, sort of like the round rings that some people put in their ears to create large holes (that black spot is what really stood out on the first surf scoter I saw at Bolsa Chica). The female is brown, a little darker above than below, with paler patches on the cheeks below the eyes and sometimes a white patch on the nape, and the bill is black with green or blue coloration. 

They breed in northern Canada and Alaska and winter along the Pacific (as far south as the Baja Peninsula in Mexico) and Atlantic coasts of North America. 
Orange is breeding and yellow is wintering - from Wikipedia.
They eat a lot of mussels, a bird after my own heart, but I prefer mine cooked with a nice white wine sauce and some sourdough bread to dip in it. 
The first description was in 1750 by George Edwards who called it the "great black duck from Hudson's Bay." 

1 comment:

  1. I've never heard the word "scoter" before. Are there other types of scoters?