The Black Scoter (Melanitta nigra) is a medium-sized sea duck that breeds in the Arctic and winters along the coasts of North America. Adult males are about 19-23 inches in length and weigh between 2.4-3.4 pounds, while females are slightly smaller, measuring about 16-20 inches and weighing 1.8-2.6 pounds.
One of the most distinguishing field marks of the Black Scoter is its completely black plumage, which sets it apart from other scoters. The male has a distinctive knob on its bill, while the female’s bill is shorter and lacks the knob. Both sexes have white eye patches that contrast with their dark feathers.
The Black Scoter is a long-distance migrant, with most birds traveling from their breeding grounds in the Arctic to their wintering areas along the coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. In the fall, they migrate south in large flocks and can be seen in large numbers along the coastlines of the eastern and western United States, as well as in Canada and Alaska.
During the breeding season, Black Scoters can be found in shallow Arctic waters, where they feed on benthic invertebrates such as clams, mussels, and snails. In winter, they move to deeper waters along the coast, where they feed on crustaceans, mollusks, and fish.
The Black Scoter is a relatively common species, although populations have declined in some areas due to habitat loss and hunting pressure. Conservation efforts have focused on protecting their breeding grounds in the Arctic, as well as reducing hunting pressure and mitigating threats to their wintering habitats along the coasts of North America.