White-winged Scoter

photo by Phil Swanson

Melanitta fusca
L 21″(53 cm).

Song or calls:
Both male and female utter a whistling note in courtship.

Description: Black. White around eye, curves back and upwards. Orange bill. Female dark brown with two light patches on face. Both sexes have white secondaries which are obvious in flight, and sometimes can be seen in swimming bird.

Habitat: Migrants found on lakes, reservoirs, and larger rivers.

Where in Nebraska: Casual spring and rare fall migrant. Accidental in winter. Most likely to be found on large lakes and reservoirs, although some early state records were from the Missouri River. At one time the mostly likely scoter to be encountered in Nebraska, but in recent years has been the least likely of the three to be observed.

Field Notes: Populations in the Great Lakes appear to be increasing in response to the invasion of the zebra mussel, a new and abundant food source.

Fun Facts: Can dive 24 feet and sometimes up to 40 feet to get at the beds of shellfish, a favorite food, but most often feeds and dives in water less than 15 feet.