Velvet Scoter

Velvet Scoter

Key facts

Scientific name: Melanitta fusca

Status: Winter visitor

Wintering birds: 2,500

Conservation status: Red

Family: Ducks, geese & swans

Length: 51 – 58 cm

Wingspan: 86 – 99 cm

Weight: 1140 – 2110 g


Male velvet scoters are glossy black with paler flanks and a white wing bar. They are paler during breeding season.

Below the eye is a white patch and they have yellow-orange bills, pale grey eyes and pink legs with black webbed feet.

Female velvet scoters are dark brown with two circular white patches on the head. Female bills are dark drey and legs and feet are dark red.

Juvenile velvet scoters are similar to females except the have larger head patches and a paler breast.


Velvet scoters are winter visitors and do not breed in the UK. They nest in single pairs or small groups. The nest is a shallow depression in the ground around 1-2 km from open water and lined with plant matter.

Velvet scoters lay 7-9 creamy buff eggs which are incubated by the female for 26-29 days. The male leaves soon after incubation begins.

The ducklings leave the nest soon after hatching and feed themselves but are brooded for a further 1-3 weeks at night. They fledge at 50-55 days after hatching.


Velvet scoters feed mainly by diving using their wings and feet to propel themselves into the water.

They eat saltwater molluscs and crustaceans, insect larvae, worms and small fish. They may also feed on plant material.

Velvet Scoter

Where to see them

Velvet scoters arrive in winter to the east coast and can be seen in Norfolk, Scotland and north-east England.


Jarek Matusiak/xeno-canto

Did you know?

The scientific name for the Velvet scoter is from the Latin “fuses” meaning dusky brown. 

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