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Common scoter (Black scoter)

Melanitta nigra

Zwarte zee-eend / Trauerente / Macreuse noire


The common scoter is a large sea duck, 43–54 cm in length, which breeds over the far north of Europe and Asia east to the Olenyok River. The American / Eastern Siberian M. americana (black scoter) is sometimes considered a subspecies of M. nigra.

It winters farther south in temperate zones, on the coasts of Europe as far south as Morocco. It forms large flocks on suitable coastal waters. These are tightly packed, and the birds tend to take off and dive together.

The lined nest is built on the ground close to the sea, lakes or rivers, in woodland or tundra. 6-8 eggs are laid.

It is characterised by its bulky shape and large bill. The male is all black with a bulbous bill which shows some yellow coloration around thenostrils. The female is a brown bird with pale cheeks, very similar to female black scoter.

This species can be distinguished from other scoters, apart from black, by the lack of white anywhere on the drake, and the more extensive pale areas on the female.

This species dives for crustaceans and molluscs; it also eats aquatic insects and small fish when on fresh water.


Melanitta nigra has been split into Melanitta nigra and M. americana 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 species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). There are conflicting data on the species's population trend, but until wider survey data are available the species is regarded as not declining sufficiently rapidly to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern. If surveys do not locate the numbers that appeared to be missing from the Baltic Sea in recent years (2007-2009), this species is likely to qualify for uplisting.


Melanitta nigra breeds in Iceland, eastern Greenland (Denmark) and northern United Kingdom, across Scandinavia and northern parts of western and central Russia (e.g. Collinson et al. 2006). It winters in the Baltic Sea, off the Atlantic coast of Europe and North Africa, south to Mauritania, and in the western Mediterranean (del Hoyo et al.1992, Delany and Scott 2006).


The total population has been estimated to number 1,600,000 individuals (Delany and Scott 2006), which probably includes c.1,070,000 mature individuals, assuming that they account for around 2/3 of the population.


The large concentrations of this species that occur during the moulting period and in winter are highly vulnerable to oil spills (Gorski et al. 1977, Nikolaeva et al. 2006), chronic oil pollution, human disturbance and the degradation of food resources as a result of oil exploration (Nikolaeva et al. 2006). The species also suffers disturbance from high-speed ferries (Larsen and Laubek 2005) and populations wintering off the coasts of western Europe are threatened by offshore wind farms (Kear 2005, Fox and Petersen 2006, Petersen 2006). The effects of commercial exploitation of benthic shellfish also poses a threat (through competition for food resources) (Kear 2005), and the species's breeding habitats are threatened by eutrophication in some areas (Kear 2005). The species is susceptible to avian influenza so may be threatened by future outbreaks of the virus (Melville and Shortridge 2006). The species is hunted in some areas (e.g. Bregnballe et al. 2006) and its eggs used to be (and possibly still are) harvested in Iceland (Gudmundsson 1979).


More information: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/22724879/0



Above: adult drake Melanitta nigra



Above: adult drake Melanitta nigra



Above: adult drake Melanitta nigra



Above: adult female Melanitta nigra

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