GCBO Bird of the Month

White-winged Scoter

by Mike Williams


The White-winged Scoter, (Melanitta deglandi), was first described by Linnaeus in 1758. For many years, the White-winged Scoter, Velvet Scoter, and Stejner’s Scoter were combined and considered a single species. They were broken down into three separate species in 2019. The White-winged Scoter is one of 3 species found in North America of the genus Melanitta. It breeds in boreal forests near freshwater lakes in the extreme North, often well inland. It typically winters at sea in more temperate regions but can be found occasionally on inland waters during migration. Odd birds do turn up in Texas in most Winters.

White-winged Scoters lay 6-16 light brown/pink eggs on the ground in a scrape lined with twigs and down often in a crevice or under a bush. The eggs are incubated for 25-30 days by the female only. The chicks are brown above and white below and fledge in 50-80 days becoming breeding adults in 2-3 years. In summer, food is typically insect and crustacean based and forms the diet of the chicks. In Winter, mollusks and crustaceans form the Scoter’s diet with very little plant material being eaten. It should be noted most food is caught while diving and Scoters dive frequently.


A dark medium to large sized duck, the upperparts are black and often show a noticeable sheen. Underparts are brown/black. The adult’s bill is orange and black with a noticeable knob. There is a white patch on the face below and behind the eye and a distinctive white speculum on the wings. Scoters are usually silent but occasional squeaks and croaks are made.

Interesting Facts:

·      The White-winged is the largest scoter.

·  White-winged Scoters are late breeders – clutches are often not complete until late June, after most other Arctic nesters.

·      A group of ducks is known as a team, a paddling or a raft. 

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