The smallest scoter, the male "Black Scoter" is uniformly black and might be mistaken for a coot. He dives with small leaps, wings held closed, unlike other scoters. On the water, he rears up, dips his head down and performs a rapid series of wing beats. In another display, he often cocks his tail out of the water.
The adult female scoter is dark brown with pale face and throat.
The first season male looks like the adult female, but with a pale belly. He develops the orange knob during the winter season.
In flight, the "Black Scoter" shows a strong, silver flash on the underside of his primaries. As these primaries wear, they become strongly translucent, a most useful feature, in spring, for the adult male. During the huge fall migration, which is diurnal, "Black Scoters", along with other ducks and grebes, form long lines across the sky.
On the East Coast in spring, the "Black Scoter" migrates, nocturnally, to the Canadian Maritime Provinces to breed the third week of May. On the West Coast, they breed in the Tundra of Alaska and Aleutians.
Calls or song.
The most vocal of scoters, groups of five to thirty males follow the females giving a long, low and mellow whistle. The females remain largely silent.
Population and distribution.
In winter the "Black Scoter" is found in inshore bays and inlets along both Pacific and Atlantic Coasts. Small numbers winter on Lake Ontario.
Scoters are ducks with marine habits, building floating nests among the reeds of tidal rivers and wetlands.