The Black Scoter Melanitta americana, called the American Scoter by some and Melanitta nigra by others*, is a large seaduck rather readily identified by the large, shockingly-bright-yellow knob on the male’s bill that stands out amazingly well against the all-black plumage that gives the bird its common name.  The female is dressed in more muted tones of brown with pale cheeks.  Both are appealing to the eye and enjoyable to watch as they alternately swim on the surface or dive down deep after dinner.

These two Black Scoters were photographed from shore at the end of January 2010 in Massachusetts.  Though I failed to get a shot of it I did witness the male come up with a shellfish from one dive, and I assume that is what both birds were after on their frequent forays underwater.



This post has been submitted to Bird Photography Weekly #76.  Go check it out!

*Those who call the bird Black Scoter tend to use Melanitta nigra while those who call the bird American Scoter tend to use Melanitta americana, for obvious reasons (I decided to mix things up just to be confusing).  The Common Scoter of Eurasia, which is sometimes considered conspecific, goes by Melanitta nigra.  So lumpers call the bird featured in this post Melanitta nigra and splitters use Melanitta americana.  At least, that is how I understand things, please feel free to correct me if I am wrong…

Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.