Common Scoter Melanitta nigra

A squat, dark seaduck, the common scoter gathers in flocks of several hundred or even thousands in winter, mostly feeding far out to sea. The male common scoter is our only all-black duck, with just a small patch of yellow on the bill. The female is dark brown, with a paler cheek.


Common scoters are commonly spotted as a line of dark ducks flying low over the water, or as large rafts of black ducks bobbing on the sea.


Length: 46-50cm

Wingspan: 84cm

Weight: 1kg


Classified in the UK as a Red List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review and as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.


A very rare nesting bird on pools in the far north of Scotland, but a common winter visitor to coasts.

When to see

January – December


  • Common scoter will dive as deep as 30 metres to hunt for their shellfish prey. While they are under the water, their wings are partially open helping them to stay balanced.
  • Although common scoters can be seen in other parts of the UK, the only breeding pairs are in Scotland.

Common name

Common Scoter

Species name

Melanitta nigra

IUCN Red List status

Least concern

When to see in Scotland

January – December

Where to see in Scotland

Scottish Wildlife Trust reserves such as Montrose Basin or Carlingnose point.

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