Common Name

Scientific Name

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Photo by Dave Menke
Photo Courtesy of U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The white-winged scoter, Melanitta fusca, breeds in northern Eurasia, Alaska, and western Canada, and winters along ocean coasts south to western Europe, Japan, and the southern United States (both Atlantic and Pacific coasts). Although in Utah this sea duck is rare in winter, it is the scoter most frequently and regularly seen in the state. Its breeding habitat is large freshwater and brackish lakes, especially lakes having islands with low, dense shrub cover. During winter, this species utilizes coastal estuaries and bays where it prefers the zone beyond where the waves break but within a mile of the shore. The white-winged scoter is a bottom feeder; it eats mostly crustaceans and insects while at its breeding grounds (usually freshwater), whereas it consumes mollusks and crustaceans while in wintering areas (usually salt water).

The nest is on the ground, almost always well-hidden in dense, usually thorny cover, and is normally about 300 feet from water. Six to sixteen (usually eight or nine) eggs are incubated by the female parent only and hatch after 25 to 30 days. The female broods the precocial young in the nest for 12 to 24 hours before leading them to water. Only the female tends the young, which she abandons after one to three weeks. Usually the young remain together for one to three more weeks.


  • Brown, P. W., and L. H. Fredrickson. 1997. Birds of North America 274: 127.

  • Baicich, P. J., and C. J. O. Harrison. 1997. A guide to the nests, eggs, and nestlings of North American birds. 2nd ed. Academic, San Diego. 347 pp.