Velvet Scoter

Velvet Scoter

Scientific name: Melanitta fusca

Did you know: The Velvet Scoter, a striking sea duck, is known for its unique yellow bill and is the largest member of its species!

What Do Velvet Scoters Look Like? (How to Identify Them)

Velvet Scoters are remarkable for their bold, contrasting colours and robust build. Males are predominantly black with a distinctive white eye patch and a conspicuous white wing patch. 

Their large, bulbous bill is a vivid yellow, adding a splash of colour to their otherwise dark plumage. Females, on the other hand, sport a more subdued brown colouration with paler head patches and white wing markings. 

Both sexes showcase a hefty body and long wings, measuring around 51 to 58 cm in length with a wingspan stretching between 86 to 99 cm.

Differences Between Male and Female Velvet Scoters

Distinguishing male and female Velvet Scoters is quite straightforward. 

Males boast a glossy black plumage with a yellow-edged bill and a unique white mark near the eye. 

Females, however, are cloaked in dark brown with less pronounced white head patches and a darker bill. During flight, both genders reveal the characteristic white wing patches, a key identification feature of this species.

What Do Velvet Scoters Eat?

Velvet Scoters have a diverse diet, primarily consisting of aquatic organisms. They feast on crabs, sea urchins, fish, shellfish, insect larvae, and occasionally, plant material. These birds are adept divers, using their wings and feet to propel themselves underwater in pursuit of their prey.

Where Do Velvet Scoters Live? (Including Migration Info)

Though Velvet Scoters do not breed in the UK, they are regular winter visitors, particularly favouring the east coast areas such as Scotland, Norfolk, and north-east England. They originate from northern Europe and parts of Asia, migrating to more temperate zones during winter. 

Coastal waters, in both marine and intertidal habitats, are their preferred wintering grounds.

Bird Calls & Songs (The Unique Voices of Velvet Scoters)

Velvet Scoters have a distinctive vocalisation, often described as a series of mellow, low-pitched calls. While not as melodious as some songbirds, their calls play a crucial role in social interactions, especially during the breeding season.

Fun Velvet Scoter Facts (Kid Friendly)

  • Velvet Scoters can dive deep underwater to find food.
  • They are the largest in the scoter family, with males having a striking yellow bill.
  • In winter, they gather in large, tightly-packed flocks on the sea.
  • Velvet Scoter chicks can swim and feed themselves shortly after hatching.
  • These birds are protected under the AEWA agreement, highlighting their conservation importance.
  • The species name ‘fusca’ comes from Latin, meaning ‘dusky brown’.
  • During migration, they can travel long distances from their breeding grounds in the far north.

Facts About The Velvet Scoter

Diet: Shellfish, crabs, sea urchins, fish and insect larvae.
Bird Family: Ducks, geese and swans
Length: 52-59cm
Wingspan: 90-99cm
Weight: 1.1-2kg
Scientific Name: Melanitta fusca

The Velvet Scoter Can Be Seen In The UK During The Following Months

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

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