Surf Scoter Melanitta perspicillata


We do not have a complete account for this species.

The summary below is an overview from The Birds of North America Online.

BNA Account Authors: Savard, Jean-Pierre L., Daniel Bordage, and Austin Reed

Breeding and wintering exclusively in North America, the Surf Scoter was until recently one of our least-known seaducks. Bellrose (1980: 402) wrote, "Of all the ducks in North America, the Surf Scoter has the dubious distinction of being the least studied. It is indeed a blemish on the record of twentieth-century ornithologists and wildlife biologists that most of the available information on nesting dates back to the nineteenth century and is only fragmentary." Within the last 10¿12 years (1985¿1997), however, many aspects of the ecology, distribution, and behavior of this species have been documented for the first time.

Breeding in northern Canada and Alaska and wintering along the East and West Coasts of North America, the Surf Scoter eats aquatic invertebrates on its breeding grounds and mollusks in spring, fall, and winter, as do other North American scoters. Outside its breeding range, the Surf Scoter occurs in flocks of various sex and age composition, molting in large concentrations at specific sites located in coastal waters. The species breeds on freshwater lakes, where males defend a moving area around the female. Females with broods are not territorial. Accidental exchanges of young among broods are frequent on crowded lakes, and reproductive success may fluctuate widely between years, mostly in response to weather conditions.

View the full account on The Birds of North America Online

In-depth, comprehensive species information and multimedia (subscription required).

Help author an account about this species from a Neotropical perspective.

Help complete this species

There are many ways to contribute—we need species information, photographs, audio, video, translations, maps, distribution data, and bird sightings. There's a role for everyone!

Learn more

© Michael Andersen

  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding

Recommended Citation

Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: