Velvet Scoter (Melanitta fusca)

Velvet Scoter

[order] ANSERIFORMES | [family] Anatidae | [latin] Melanitta fusca | [authority] Linnaeus, 1758 | [UK] Velvet Scoter | [FR] Macreuse brune | [DE] Samtente | [ES] Negron Especulado | [NL] Grote Zeeeend


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Melanitta fusca EU n


The scoters are stocky seaducks in the genus Melanitta. The drakes are mostly black and have swollen bills. Females are brown. They breed in the far north of Europe, Asia and North America, and winter further south in temperate zones of those continents. They form large flocks on suitable coastal waters. These are tightly packed, and the birds tend to take off together. Their lined nests are built on the ground close to the sea, lakes or rivers, in woodland or tundra. These species dive for crustaceans and molluscs.

Physical charateristics

Scoters are large, mostly black or dark gray sea ducks, and the Velvet Scoter is the largest of the three species. All plumages have a white wing-patch, which distinguishes the Velvet Scoter in flight from the other two scoters, which have solid black wings. The Velvet Scoter can also be distinguished by its sloping forehead and bill, which is less bulbous than that of the others. The adult male is solid black with a white comma around a white eye. Its bill is yellow and has a dark knob at the base. The juvenile and the female have light gray patches in front of and behind their eyes, and are dark gray overall with gray bills.
Velvet Scoters spend the non-breeding part of the year in large flocks on the ocean. They feed almost exclusively by diving, taking prey from the ocean floor, and swallowing the small items under water. Scoters are strong flyers, but must get a running start along the water to get airborne.

Listen to the sound of Velvet Scoter

[audio: Scoter.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 79 cm wingspan max.: 97 cm
size min.: 51 cm size max.: 58 cm
incubation min.: 26 days incubation max.: 29 days
fledging min.: 63 days fledging max.: 29 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 5  
      eggs max.: 12  


Eurasia : North


Velvet Scoters nest on freshwater lakes and wetlands in open country in the northwest interior of North America. They winter in open, coastal environments, favoring bays and inlets with sandy shores and shellfish beds. Velvet Scoters are generally found in deeper water and farther from shore than the other scoters.


Velvet Scoters probably form pair bonds during migration in their second or third year. Nests are built on the ground close to water, and hidden by brush. The nest is a shallow depression lined with down and occasionally additional plant material. The female typically lays 8 to 10 eggs and incubates them for 25 to 30 days. The pair bond dissolves, and the male leaves soon after incubation begins. Pair bonds do not appear to re-form between the same birds in succeeding years. The young leave the nest shortly after hatching and feed themselves. The female tends the young and broods them at night for 1 to 3 weeks, after which she leaves them to fend for themselves. They fledge at 63 to 77 days.

Feeding habits

During winter, mollusks and crustaceans are the most common food item. During the breeding season, aquatic insect larvae become a predominant part of the diet. Crustaceans and other aquatic invertebrates are also eaten.

Video Velvet Scoter


copyright: youtube


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). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid 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.
Melanitta fusca breeds in Fennoscandia and northern Russia (with a disjunct
population in the Caucasus), which together account for less than a quarter of its
global breeding range. Its European breeding population is relatively small (<100,000 pairs), but was stable between 1970-1990. Although some populations were stable or increased during 1990-2000, the species declined in Russia and Norway, and underwent a moderate decline (>10%) overall.
Outside the breeding season this duck is almost exclusively a marine species. It is breeding in the arctic, boreal and temperate regions of the major part of Europe and North America. The western Eurasian population is wintering mainly in the Baltic and North seas, but small numbers reach the Atlantic coasts of France and Spain. During very cold winters some birds also reach the lakes at the foot of the Alps, e. g. in Germany. The West European population amounts to 1000000 individuals and seems stable. A few birds have been recorded in Greece (Handrinos & Akriotis). They belong probably to a small population, estimated at 1500 individuals, breeding in the Caucasus regions and wintering in the Black Sea
Velvet Scoter status Least Concern


Migratory; winters Atlantic and Pacific coasts of North America as far as Baja California, most of Europe S to Mediterranean, Black and Caspian Seas and NE Asia S to Japan and E China; also inland (e.g. Great Lakes, Central Europe). Irregularly further S.

Distribution map

Velvet Scoter distribution range map

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