Black scoter | American birds

   ›      ›   Black scoter - Melanitta americana

The black scoter (Melanitta americana) belongs to the family of scoters, geese and swans, the Anatidae.

The black scoter is distributed in North America and northeast and east Asia. The scoter species is listed as "Near Threatened" by the IUCN. This scoter is a monotypic species.

Overview & Quick Facts Description & Identification
Pictures of Black Scoter Distribution & Range
Ecosystem & Habitat Diet & Feeding Behavior
Breeding Habits Migration & Movement Patterns
Conservation & Survival IUCN Status
Taxonomy & Classification Bird World

Appearance, physical description and identification

The black scoter (Melanitta americana) is a large scoter, measuring 45 to 55 cm in length and weighing 850 to 1100 grams. The wingspan is 80 to 90 cm.

The male black scoter has overall black plumage. The female is brownish and has extensive pale areas. They have distinguishing head and bill patterns.

The large, thick bill is dark with a large yellow knob. The irises are blackish. The legs and feet are dark gray. The black scoter call is a long, drawn whistling sound.
American birds - Image of Black scoter - Melanitta americana
1.American birds - Image of Black scoter - Melanitta americana by Aaron Maizlish

American birds - Image of Melanitta americana
2.American birds - Image of Black scoter - Melanitta americana by Peter Massas

American birds - Image of Melanitta americana
3.American birds - Image of Black scoter - Melanitta americana by Aaron Maizlish

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The black scoter species is distributed in north America (USA, Canada and northmost Mexico) and northeast and east Asia (Russia, North Korea, South Korea, Japan and China).

Vagrant populations of these species occur in western coast of Europe, northwest African coast and northern coast of South America and the Caribbean Islands.

The Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) of the black scoter species in USA are, Kachemak Bay, Prince William Sound and Marmot Bay.

The IBA of these scoter species in Russia are, North-east Sakhalin lagoons, Bol'shaya River Estuary, Karaginskiy Island, Nevskoye Lake, Lesser Kuril Ridge and Kunashir Island.

Ecosystem and habitat

The black scoter species do not normally occur in forests. They normally occur in altitudes between 0 to 100 meters.

The natural ecosystems and habitats of these scoter species include boreal shrublands, tundra wetlands, shallow seas with macroalgal growth, tidepools, open seas and rocky reefs.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of these species consists mainly of aquatic invertebrates. Molluscs, crustaceans, worms, echinoderms, isopods, amphidods, insects, small fish and plant matter are their primary food.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of these black scoter species is during May and June. They are monogamous and form highly dispersed solitary breeding pairs.

The nesting sites include, Arctic dwarf heath, boggy tundra, small islets and mossy bogs near water bodies. The nest is a lined or bare scrape on the ground hidden amongst vegetation (del Hoyo et al. 1992).

The clutch contains five to seven eggs. The female incubates the eggs and the chicks hatch out after 27 to 31 days of incubation. The flightless young fend themselves after three weeks.

Migration and movement patterns

These black scoter species are fully migratory birds. The breeding populations occur in western Alaska (USA), Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador (Canada) and far-eastern Russia (e.g. Collinson et al. 2006).

The American breeding populations migrate to the central and southern Pacific and Atlantic coasts of North America for wintering.

The far-east Asian breeding populations migrate to Pacific coast of Russia, Japan, North Korea, South Korea and eastern China (del Hoyo et al. 1992) for wintering.

Black scoter - Quick Facts

  • Scientific name: Melanitta americana
  • Species author: (Swainson, 1832)
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Oidemia Americana Swainson, 1832
  • Family: Anatidae › Anseriformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Black scoter, Chinese: 黑海番鸭, French: Macreuse à bec jaune,, German: Pazifiktrauerente, Spanish: Negrón americano, Russian: Американская синьга, Japanese: クロガモ
  • Other names: Black Scoter, American scoter
  • Distribution: North America, northeast Asia
  • Diet and feeding habits: aquatic invertebrates, small fish, insects, plant matter
  • IUCN status listing: Near Threatened (NT)

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the black scoter (Melanitta americana) is estimated to be about 530,000 to 830,000 individual birds (Delany and Scott 2006). The overall population trend of the species is considered to be decreasing.

In most of its range, this species is reported to be locally common to uncommon. The generation length is 7.5 years. Its distribution size is about 17,700,000

Habitat alteration, human disturbance, pollution, climate change, oil drilling, sport-hunting and capture for pet-trade are the main threats that are endangering the survival of this scoter species.

IUCN and CITES status

The black scoter (Melanitta americana) is approaching the thresholds for being Vulnerable under the range size criterion, under the population trend criterion and under the population size criterion.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the scoter species and has listed it as "Vulnerable".

The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) status is ‘Not Evaluated’ for the black scoter (Melanitta americana).
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Melanitta americana
Species:M. americana
Binomial name:Melanitta americana
IUCN status listing:
Near Threatened
The black scoter (Melanitta americana) is closely related to the common scoter (Melanitta nigra).
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1.Black scoter image source: (cropped)
Image author: Aaron Maizlish | License: CC BY-NC 2.0 as on 8/6/18
2.Image source: (cropped)
Image author: Peter Massas | License: CC BY-SA 2.0 as on 8/6/18
3.Image source: (cropped)
Image author: Aaron Maizlish | License: CC BY-NC 2.0 as on 8/6/18
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