White-winged Scoters

The White-winged Scoter (Melanitta deglandi) is a large sea duck, which breeds over the far north of Asia east of the Yenisey Basin, and North America.

It is sometimes considered to be conspecific (of, or belonging to, the same species) with the Velvet Scoter. These two species, and the Surf Scoter, are placed in the subgenus Melanitta, distinct from the subgenus Oidemia, Black and Common Scoters.

White-winged Scoter

It winters further south in temperate zones, on the Great Lakes, the coasts of the northern USA and the southern coasts of Canada, and Asia as far south as China.

It forms large flocks on suitable coastal waters. These are tightly packed, and the birds tend to take off together.

Breeding / Nesting:

The lined nest is built on the ground close to the sea, lakes or rivers, in woodland or tundra. 5-8 eggs are laid.

White-winged Scoter


It is the largest scoter at 51-58 cm. It is characterised by its bulky shape and large bill. The male is all black, except for white around the eye and a white speculum (= distinctive wing patch) . Its bill has a black base and a large knob. The females are brown birds with pale head patches.

There are two subspecies:

  • M. d. stejnegeri breeds in Eastern Siberia,and the nominate M. d. deglandi in Alaska and Canada west of the Hudson Bay.

Males of the American subspecies have browner flanks, dark yellow coloration of most of the bill and a less tall bill knob, approaching the Velvet Scoter.

The Asian form has a very tall knob at the base of its mostly orange-yellow bill.

Females are identical in the field.

More Duck Resources

White-winged Scoter (with Clam)

White-winged Scoter

Diet / Feeding:

White-winged Ducks dive for crustaceans and mollusks.

Ducks generally feed on larvae and pupae usually found under rocks, aquatic animals, plant material, seeds, small fish, snails and crabs.

Photo of author

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

We love to hear from our readers. If you have any questions or if you want to get in touch with us, you can find our contact details on our About Us page.

Leave a Comment