Harteman Wildfowl, presented by Jan Harteman

Velvet scoter

Melanitta fusca

Grote zee-eend / Samente / Macreuse brune

 

The velvet scoter, also called a velvet duck or white-winged scoter (not to be confused with the white-winged scoter), is a large sea duck, which breeds over the far north of Europe and Asia west of the Yenisey basin. A small, isolated population nests in eastern Turkey.

The East Siberian and North American white-winged scoter is sometimes considered conspecific with the velvet scoter, and its two constituent subspecies are then known as M. f. stejnegeri and M. f. deglandi

Melanitta fusca has been split into Melanitta fuscaM. deglandi and M. stejnegeri following a review of recent literature (Livezey 1995, Garner et al. 2004, Sangster et al. 2005, Collinson et al. 2006, AOU 2010) and museum specimens by the BirdLife Taxonomic Working Group.

 

This newly split species qualifies as Endangered (IUCN, 2013) because it is estimated to be undergoing a very rapid population decline. The causes of this decline, however, are not fully understood, and further research is needed to inform conservation actions.

Surveys in 2007-2009 put the wintering population in the Baltic Sea at c.373,000 individuals (Skov et al. 2011), with perhaps a few thousand wintering along coasts elsewhere in Europe, and another c.1,500 wintering in the Black Sea and Caucasus (Delany and Scott 2006). On this basis, the total number of mature individuals (probably around 2/3 of the total population) is estimated at c.250,000.

 

Moulting and wintering concentrations of this species are very susceptible to oil spills and other marine pollutants (Gorski et al. 1977, del Hoyo et al. 1992, Kear 2005, UICN France 2011) (an oil spill could destroy a large proportion of the global population if it occurred in a key moulting or wintering area [Madge and Burn 1988]). The species is also susceptible to the effects of commercial exploitation of marine benthic organisms and shellfish (Kear 2005), and is threatened by drowning in fishing nets (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Kear 2005). It is threatened by habitat degradation as a result of the human exploitation of natural resources in the taiga and lower tundra regions of its breeding range (Kear 2005), and by lake drainage for irrigation and hydroelectric power production (Armenia)(Balian et al. 2002). It is susceptible to disturbance from tourism in remote coastal and freshwater habitats in its breeding range (Kear 2005), as well as disturbance from wind farms (wind turbines) (Garthe and Huppop 2004). The species suffers predation from American mink Neovison vison on islands (Nordstrom et al. 2002) and is also susceptible to avian influenza, so may be threatened by future outbreaks of the virus (Melville and Shortridge 2006). The species is a target of hunters in some areas (e.g. Bregnballe et al. 2006).

 

No targeted conservation actions are known for this species, although numbers in some parts of its range (accounting for most of the population) have received monitoring in recent decades, and it occurs in some protected areas.
Continue to monitor numbers in both its breeding and wintering range. Carry out research into the causes of the recently detected decline. Increase the area of breeding habitat that is protected. Tackle potential causes of mortality in wintering birds, such as drowning in fishing nets.

 

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Above: Melanitta fusca, adult drake

 

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Above: Melanitta fusca, adult females

 

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Above: Melanitta fusca, adult drake

 

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Above: Melanitta fusca, adult female

 

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Above: Melanitta fusca, adult female

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