BLACK SCOTER (Melanitta americana) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The Black, or American Scoter is a diving sea duck with a knob on its bill.  The male is entirely black with part of the upper bill near the face a bright yellow. The female is dark brown with light brown cheeks and tiny specks of yellow on the upper part of the bill. The black scoter is a large sea bird (around 50 cm or 20 inches long).
NAME: The name ‘Scoter’ would be a variation of ‘coot’, a name used by hunters of this duck. The Latin name ‘Melanitta’ means ‘black duck’.
HABITAT: Tundra lakes in the summer, along the coasts with rocky bottoms in the winter.
DIET: Variety of crustaceans, fish, and vegetation.
NESTING: Shallow depression on the ground. Between three and eight light beige eggs are laid, incubated by the female. Ducklings are able to feed themselves from birth, but the mother broods them for the first three weeks.
DISTRIBUTION: The black scoter breeds in the Arctic regions of Alaska and eastern Siberia, and northern Quebec for the most part. When not breeding it can be found along the coasts of North America and Asia. Some vagrants have made it to Hawaii. (See note below for information on bird vagrancy.)
ON PEI:The black scoter visits Prince Edward Island mainly during the winter (uncommon), fall and spring (fairly common).
CONSERVATION: This species is considered as ‘near threatened’ by the IUCN, due a decline in their population. Their habitat is vulnerable to oil spills and loss of food sources from oil pollution.
Vagrancy: In biology this means an animal going way outside its normal range. For birds, this can happen when there are storms and they get blown off course. On other times, the bird simply wanders in a different direction than usual. Here’s an article about vagrancy in birds.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Surf Scoter, White-winged Scoter, American Coot

Black scoters, North Cape, PEI Apr. 11, 2017 – © Marie Smith
Black scoters, North Cape, PEI
Apr. 11, 2017 – © Marie Smith
Black scoters, North Cape, PEI - Apr. 11, 2017 - © Marie Smith
Black scoters, © Marie Smith