Surf Scoter Cape Ann Massachusetts male-female-2  Kim SmithAlthough described as common along both the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, this raft of velvety black ducks was new and different to my eyes. The Surf Scoters were here for several days gathering along Cape Ann’s backshore and feeding heartily several hundred yards off the beach. Both in the evening and the following early morning that I found them, they were first to arrive on the scene, soon joined by a paddling of Buffleheads and then several Common Eiders, and all amicably diving together.

Surf Scoter male female Cape Ann Massachusetts Kim Smith 2016Fairly far off shore at least we can catch a comparative glimpse of the difference between the male and female Surf Scoter (the female is far right).

The male Surf Scoter’s well-defined stark white patches against ebony feathers lends this seaduck its common name, “Skunk-headed Coot.” But it is the scoter’s bulbous-at-the-base orange, black and white patterned bill that I find interesting and almost comical. The female is a plainer dull blackish-brownish with light colored patches, one behind each eye and at the base of the bill.

I would love to know if any of our readers have seen Surf Scoters, when and where, if you have a moment to write. Thank you!

Surf Scoter Cape Ann Massachusetts male female Kim Smith 2016While watching them feeding and courting in the surf, several times it appeared as though they were squaring off, as in the top photo, and preparing to promenade in a hoedown!


  1. Rasmus Strack

    Hi Kim, nice photos of the Surf Scoters!
    im Rasmus Strack a Danish birder former member of the Danish and Skandinavian Rare bird commitee.
    I’m working on a article to the Danish website on ageing Surf Scoter, and i saw that you have some nice photos of imm birds that i’d like to use, if it’s ok with you.
    Hope to hear from you
    Rasmus Strack


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