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The scoters are stocky seaducks in the genus Melanitta. The drakes are mostly black and have swollen bills. Females are brown. The genus name is derived from Ancient Greek melas "black" and netta "duck".[2]

Adult male white-winged scoter (Melanitta deglandi)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Anseriformes
Family: Anatidae
Subfamily: Merginae
Genus: Melanitta
F. Boie, 1822[1]

See text



They breed in the far north of Europe, Asia, and North America, and winter farther south in temperate zones of those continents. They form large flocks on suitable coastal waters. These are tightly packed, and the birds tend to take off together.

Their lined nests are built on the ground close to the sea, lakes or rivers, in woodland or tundra. These species dive for crustaceans and molluscs.


There are six species,[1] grouped into two subgenera:

Image Subgenus Scientific name Common Name Distribution
  Oidemia Melanitta americana black or American scoter north of North America in Labrador and Newfoundland to the southeast Hudson Bay
  Oidemia Melanitta nigra common scoter north of Europe and Asia east to the Olenyok River
  Melanitta Melanitta fusca velvet scoter eastern Turkey, Europe as far south as Great Britain, and on the Black and Caspian Sea.
  Melanitta Melanitta deglandi white-winged scoter North America.
Melanitta Melanitta stejnegeri Stejneger's scoter far north of Asia east of the Yenisey Basin.
  Melanitta Melanitta perspicillata surf scoter North America, mostly in Northern Canada and Alaska

The presumed fossil "scoter" Melanitta ceruttii, which lived in California during the Late Pliocene, is now placed in the genus Histrionicus.


  1. ^ a b Waterfowl, IOC Bird List
  2. ^ Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 246. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.