Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Black Scoter

On Wednesday (27 November 2013) along the St Croix River at Prescott, Wisconsin, John Holden and I discovered a strange duck. I was uncertain what to name the bird until other birders began reporting a Black Scoter, both in Wisconsin and across the river in nearby Minnesota. Identification of female Black Scoters hinge on their pale cheeks and fore-neck, contrasting with their dark crown.

Black Scoters are rare fall migrants in central Minnesota. The species is, indeed, “one of North America’s least known waterfowl” (Bordage and Savard 2011). They have disjunct breeding grounds in northern Alaska and western Canada and in northern Quebec. Most winter on our Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Very few nests have been described from the western hemisphere. Populations suffer significant cycles, and, therefore, are sensitive to hunting during low years.

P.S.: Peter Nichols reported to the MOU listserv on 7 December 2013, "Shortly after 10 AM this morning, I  … saw a Bald Eagle swoop down and fly off with the Black Scoter."

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