Common Scoter

Common Scoter

Key facts

Scientific name: Melanitta nigra
Status: Resident breeder and winter visitor

Breeding birds: 52 pairs

Wintering birds: 100,000

Conservation status: Red
Length: 44 – 45 cm
Wingspan: 79 – 90 cm
Weight: 650 – 1,200 g


Adult male common scoters have black plumage with a violet gloss on their upperparts and a green gloss on their underparts. They have broad, black bills with a yellow patch on the knob. Their eyes are dark brown, and legs and feet are dark grey.

Adult female common scoters are dark brown with a slight gloss on their breast and belly. They have a dark brown crown and nape and paler face, cheeks and neck. Flight feathers have pale tips. They have dark bills, brown eyes and black legs and feet.

Juvenile common scoters look like adult females with pale underparts.


Common scoters nest in single pairs. They build their nest on the ground, near water, lined with grass, lichen, moss and down.

Common scoters lay 6-8 creamy-white eggs which the female incubates for 27-31 days. Chicks are able to feed and swim soon after hatching and can fly at 45 days. They fledge 45-50 days after hatching.


Common scoters eat insect larvae, crustaceans, molluscs and aquatic plants. They will occasionally eat worms and small fish.

Common Scoter

Where to see them

Common scoters are found along the coast of the UK. In breeding season they can be spotted in small locks in the north and west of Scotland.


Tero Linjama/xeno-canto

Did you know?

In 19th century France, the common scoter was accepted by the Catholic Church as a substitute for fish during the Friday fast.

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