Wildlife Fact Sheets

Surf Scoter

Surf Scoter

Surf Scoter

Melanitta perspicillata

  • Life Span
    Up to 11 years
  • Habitat
    In the summer you can find us up north in fresh Arctic lakes. In the winter, we move south and stay in shallow bays and estuaries.
  • Range
    In North America on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts
  • Preferred Food
    Mainly mollusks, but also crustaceans, grasses and small fish


I’m one of the flashiest sea ducks around! My jet black color, white patches on my head and multi-colored beak certainly make me stand out. Females are a little more subtle with their coloring—their brown heads and bodies helps them blend into the wooded areas where they like to lay their eggs. You can find me in North America near bodies of water. I have to be close to the coast so I can easily find the mollusks, crustaceans, grasses and small fish I like to eat. To get my meals, I dive through wave crests and down beneath the ocean surface, but typically not below about 30 feet deep.

Did You Know?

My unique coloring led to my nickname of the “skunk-head coot.”

Status and Conservation

We move around a lot depending on the time of the year. In the winter, we hang out by the ocean and in shallow bays and focus on finding a mate. To get a female’s attention, I’ll swim back and forth while stretching my neck and bowing. Lots of males may surround a female at once, so sometimes we will fight each other to impress her (the ladies love it). In the summer, we move north to the Arctic region where we breed. Females will lay their eggs in nests away from the water and well-hidden from predators.

Fast Facts


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