Mobile bird identification
Bird Field Guide

Surf Scoter

Melanitta perspicillata
The Surf Scoter has an all-black body except for the neck and head markings. Note the lack of wing markings; the uniform dark wings are diagnostic.

The Male Surf Scoter in Winter is a dark black bird with a bright white nape and a white forehead. Its bill is bright orange with a white base and a black patch on the side. The Surf Scoter is smaller than the Velvet and Common Scoter.

Adult Male Summer/Winter
The Surf Scoter is the smallest Scoter, however unless other Scoter are around this may not be apparent.
The Surf Scoter is a marine species going ashore on remote tundra to breed.
General distribution:
The Surf Scoter breeds in Canada and Alaska, moving South to Northern America in the Winter. A rare vagrant in the UK with only a few sightings per year.

The Female Surf Scoter is a sooty-brown bird with no white markings. It has pale patches on the side of the head and occasionally the nape and throat can also be pale. The Surf Scoter is smaller than Velvet and Common Scoter.

Identifying a Surf Scoter Male

All black body

*White forehead

*White nape

*Distinctive bill, orange, white & black
Thanks to:
* key ID points
Adult Female Summer/Winter
Identifying a Female Surf Scoter
Identifying a Surf Scoter 1st winter

*Pale head patches

All dark brown body

* key ID points
Nice video of Male surf Scoter diving, note the diving action which can be diagnostic.
Wildfowl (Ducks)
A flock of scoter flying
A raft of scoter
Identifying a Surf Scoter flying
Mixed flocks of Scoter are typically seen 'rafted' in large flocks well offshore.
Scoter tend to fly in straight lines parallel to the shore, often in large numbers of different species.

This Young Male Surf Scoter is in his 1st Winter plumage, very similar to the adult Male however the bill has not yet fully developed it's distinctive markings.

*Females can also have a pale nape and kneck

Heavy head and bill

The way Scoter dive is a useful way to identify birds at a distance:

The Common Scoter jumps before diving and keeps it's wings held tight against it's body.

The Velvet Scoter dives without the jump and tends to appear to slip under the water with it's wings partially opened.

The Surf Scoter dives with a small jump with wings flicking open before disappearing below the surface.
Identify by diving technique
Order: Anseriformes

Family: Anatidae

Genus:  Melanitta

Species: M. perspicillata
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Thanks to:;  (Modified)
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1st Winter Male
Identifying a Female Surf Scoter
Thanks to:;

The Female Surf Scoter can be hard to identify from other Scoter. Note the heavy bill and head profile of this female bird which is almost Eider like.