Water Birds: White-Winged Scoter

Status Common transient, fairly common in winter, uncommon in summer. The main fall movement occurs in October and November, and estimates of 100-300 birds are regular on Christmas Bird Counts around the province. Large numbers are seen at times in later winter, and major northward movements occur in late March or early April.

Description Length: 50-58 cm. Adult male: Mostly black; small white spot under eye; white wing patch, conspicuous in flight; bill orange with prominent black enlargement at base. Adult female and immature: Grayish brown above, lighter below; light grayish brown patches at base of bill and behind eye; white patch on wing.

Range Breeds from Alaska to the Ungava Peninsula and Newfoundland, south to North Dakota in the interior. Winters on the Atlantic coast from Newfoundland to South Carolina, and on the Pacific coast from the Aleutian Islands to Baja California.

Remarks Kortright (1942) states that the grinding power of its gizzard is almost unbelievable. Oysters and other molluscs are swallowed whole and many shells that would require a hard blow of a hammer to break are readily ground and chemically disintegrated in its gizzard.

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Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History

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