Kingdoms / Animalia / Craniata / Aves / Anseriformes / Anatidae / Melanitta / Species
< > Melanitta perspicillata - Surf scoter (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)









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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

Skunk-headed coot
Brillenente (German)
Macreuse ŗ lunettes (French)
Negrůn careto (Spanish)
Anade marino de las rompientes (Spanish)
BrilzeeŽend (Dutch)
Vitnackad svšrta (Swedish)
Oedemia perspicillata

Names for newly-hatched

Duckling, downy.

Names for non-breeding males or other colour-phases


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Species Author

Debra Bourne

Major References

B1, B2, B3, B6, B8, B19, B25, B27.

Aviculture references:
B7, B29, B30, B40, B94, B97, B129,

Other References

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TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques

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Aviculture Information


General information:
  • Seaducks are generally winter-hardy and sociable. They are preferably kept on a large area of clean, cold, deep water, at least some of which (preferably half the area) should be more than 60cm and preferably more than1m deep. As with other diving ducks, most species are relatively ungainly on land and ponds should have shallow sloping banks. Some cover along the pond edges will generally be appreciated. Preferred nesting sites vary greatly within this group, from open ground nesting to thick vegetation and tree holes.
  • Diets of grain, pellets fish and seafood may be used, also bread. These ducks generally need a higher-protein diet than most waterfowl species and high-protein pelleted diets specifically designed for seaducks are now available, although supplementation with fish may still be important particularly for breeding.
  • Feeding in troughs containing stones may avoid the development of overgrown bills. Provision of salt water may decrease the incidence of fungal and other infections.
  • Ducklings may be given high-protein starter crumbs and live food, and provided with access to deep water for swimming from an early age.
  • Scoters are not commonly kept in captivity. Cold, pure water and a high quality diet are thought to be important in their maintenance. In captive conditions they are prone to respiratory infections and particularly to fungal infections. They appear to do well fed on dry commercial diets once acclimatised (in the case of adult-caught birds, for example birds rescued after oiling). They can be aggressive.

(B7, B29, B30, B40, B94, B129, D1)

Species-specific information:

  • Surf scoters require a large, deep (1m plus) water area with natural food available to supplement food provided.
  • These ducks have been very rarely maintained in captivity.
  • They are said to have hybridised with Melanitta fusca - White-winged scoter (B31).

(B8, B31, B97, D1)

Aviornis UK Ringing Scheme recommended average ring size: L 11.0mm (D8).

Management Techniques

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External Appearance (Morphology)

Measurement & Weight

Length 18-22 inches, 46-55cm (B3, B1).
Adult weight General About 900-1000g (B1)
Male Average about 1000g, maximum 1130g (B3); mean 2.2 lbs., maximum 2.75 lbs. (B8).
Female Average about 900g, maximum 1130g (B3); mean 2.0 lbs. (B8).
Newly-hatched weight --
Growth rate --

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Adult Bill Male Large, with swollen base. Patterned white with black patch either side on base, red centre, yellow edges and tip (B2, B3, B6, B25, B27)
Variations (If present) Female: Dark grey/green, black on sides (B2, B3, B6, B25).
Eyes (Iris) Male Yellow-white (B2, B3, B6, B25)
Variations(If present) Grey-white to brown (B2,B3, B6, B25)
Juvenile Bill Dark grey/green-black (B2, B3, B6, B25)
Eyes (Iris) Brown (B2, B3, B6, B25)

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Adult Male Orange-red, webs dusky (B2, B3, B6, B25)
Variations (If present) Yellow-orange to brown, webs dusky (B2, B3, B6, B25)
Juvenile Yellow-orange, webs dusky (B2, B3, B6, B25)

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Adult Male Overall velvet black, with large white patches at forehead and nape (B2, B3, B6, B25, B27)
Variations (If present) Female: Head and neck brown, darkest on crown and nape, whitish patches sides head near bill, behind eyes and on nape. Otherwise brown (B2, B3, B6, B25, B27).
Juvenile Similar to female, paler underparts. Distinct white patches on head (B3, B6, B25, B27)

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Newly-hatched Characteristics

General: Upperparts grey-brown, with cap nearly black, upper breast brown, underparts silver-grey, cheeks, throat and chin whitish (B6, B8).
Bill: slate-brown (B6, B8).
Feet: slate-brown (B6).

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Reproductive Season

Time of year Begins May/June (B1), June/July (B8, B27)
No. of Clutches --

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Nest placement and structure

On dry ground, sometimes at some distance from water, well concealed in bushy cover, a shallow depression with grass and down lining (B1, B3, B6, B8, B25, B27)

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Egg clutches

No. of Eggs Average --
Range 5-8 (B1); 5-9 (B8).
Egg Description Creamy, buff-white or buff-pink (B3, B8); size: 67x53mm, weight: 80g (B3).

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Unknown; probably about 27-28 days (B8).

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Sexual Maturity

Males --
Females --

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Feeding Behaviour

Adults Dive, often in synchrony, usually in water less than 30 feet deep (B1, B6, B8)
Newly-hatched --

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Parental Behaviour

Nest-building --Solitary nests (B25)
Incubation --By female; male leaves during incubation (B3, B6, B25)
Newly-hatched --Tended by female, broods sometimes merge (B3, B6, B8)

--Sometimes abandoned before fledging (B8)

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Social Behaviour

Intra-specific --Small flocks mainly (20-40) , but larger flocks in winter (B6, B25) and large moulting flocks of males (B8)
Inter-specific --Vagrants to Europe usually found in flocks with other scoters (B25)

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Sexual Behaviour

Seasonal monogamous pair bonds, formed late winter to spring, with male departing during incubation (B25)

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Predation in Wild


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Activity Patterns

Feeds in relatively shallow water, rests further out. Rarely on land except for breeding (B2)
Circadian Feed day and night (B6)

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Natural Diet


Mussels and other molluscs important, also crustaceans, insects and their larvae (in summer), fish spawn, small amount seeds and green parts of plants (B1, B3, B6, B8, B27)

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Range and Habitat

Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)


Breeding North America Mackenzie river delta eastward to Hudson Bay and south to west-central Alaska, southern Yukon, central British Columbia, central Alberta, northern Saskatchewan, west-central and eastern Quebec, Labrador.

Migratory: Winter coast Alaska to central Baja California, Nova Scotia to South Carolina and Florida, also Sonara and Gulf coast, and the Great Lakes (B1, B19, B27)

Occasional and Accidental

Casual visitor to Greenland, north-east Siberia, Bering Sea islands.

Vagrants in western Europe as far south as Spain and east to Finland and Czechoslovakia, Atlantic islands, Japan, inland USA, central Mexico, Hawaii, Bermuda. In British Isles, few appear each year, mainly seen Orkneys, Shetland, Fair Isle, but also coasts of Scottish, English, Irish coasts, usually October to March (B25, B27).



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Breeding: Wooded, tundra and boggy areas, near ponds, sluggish streams, lakes, rivers . Migrating: large streams, ponds, lakes, winter on seacoasts - estuary mouths, shallow bays (B1,B3, B6, B19, B25)

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Intraspecific variation


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Conservation Status

Wild Population -

Not globally threatened, fairly common, but declining (B1, B8).

CITES listing --
Red-data book listing --
Threats Oil spills (B8).

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Captive Populations

Three birds in one collection only, 1995 (B8).

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