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White-winged Scoter - Mature Male

The White-winged Scoter is the largest of the three Scoters we see in Canada.

We’re lucky to see these Scoters because they breed in large colonies in Alaska and Western Canada, and rarely winter inland, with the occasional exception of the Great Lakes. (The White-winged Scoter breeds farther inland than the other two scoter species and is the one most likely to appear inland on lakes and rivers during migration). They are among the last ducks to return to their breeding grounds and may not begin nesting until mid-June. Females return to nest near the area where they hatched, occasionally using the nests of other birds.

I wouldn’t say they were one of our prettiest ducks. To be honest, the mature males are butt ugly, but interesting all the same, with their dazzling blue eyes. The males are black, and the females are brown, without the characteristic white flash around their eyes.

Scoters are one of our largest diving ducks, measuring an average of 22 inches in length, about the same size as a mallard, but considerably heavier. When they dive, they leap forward and up in the air, arching their backs before diving into the water, where they propel themselves with their wings to depths of forty feet.

Populations declined during the 1970’s, but appear to be increasing in response to the invasion of the zebra mussel, a new and abundant food source. (It’s nice to know that somebody is benefiting from zebra mussels).

Scoters eat crustaceans, mollusks, fish and aquatic vegetation.

Niagara River
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

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