Stejneger’s Scoter (Melanitta stejnegeri)



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Stejneger’s scoter, also known as the Siberian scoter, is a large sea duck native to the northern Pacific Ocean. Its common name honors Norwegian-born American ornithologist, herpetologist and zoologist Leonhard Stejneger.

The genus name “Melanitta” is derived from the Greek word “melas,” which means “black,” and refers to the dark plumage of this and other scoter species. The species name “stejnegeri” honors Stejneger himself.

It is closely related to the Asian white-winged scoter.

Kingdom: Animalia

Class: Aves

Order: Anseriformes

Family: Anatidae

Scientific Name: Melanitta stejnegeri

Length: 50-60 cm

Wingspan: 85-99 cm

Weight: M: 1170-2105 g – F: 1142-1897 g

Physical Description

The adult male Stejneger’s scoter has a sleek black plumage that gleams in the sunlight. Its dark orange bill is adorned with a distinctive ornamental knob, and its eyes are a striking contrast to its dark feathers, with a bright white iris and a unique white comma-shaped patch on the lower half of the eye.

These features are further highlighted by the white patches on the wings, which add an extra touch of elegance to this already handsome bird.

The adult female Stejneger’s scoter is an equally striking bird with brown plumage and a pinkish hue. The bill is darker near the base and gradually becomes paler toward the tip. A white circular patch can be seen behind the eye, and the bird has dark brown eyes. The wings also feature small white patches.

Listen to Stejneger’s Scoter


Distribution & Range

Breeding populations of the Stejneger’s scoter are dispersed throughout the northern regions of East Asia, east of the Yenisey Basin. Some birds occur in Eastern Siberia along the coasts of the Sea of Okhotsk and the Bering Sea. It is rare in other parts of the world.

In the winter, Stejneger’s scoter winters in northeastern China, Japan and parts of south Korea.

The Stejneger’s scoter is a rare visitor in Western Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. Some sightings have been reported in California and Montana.


The Stejneger’s scoter breeds in various habitats, including boreal forests, Arctic tundra, wetlands, marshes, swamps, bogs, larger lakes, and slow-flowing rivers. These birds often nest near lakes and large pools, but some pairs may also breed in other wetland areas.

During the winter months, the Stejneger’s scoter can be found in coastal waters, including sheltered bays and estuaries. Many flocks use freshwater lakes as temporary stopover sites during their winter migration, and some may even spend the entire winter there.

Feeding Habits & Diet

Like other sea ducks, the Stejneger’s scoter is adapted to feeding and foraging in marine environments. It is commonly found in coastal areas and is a skilled swimmer and diver.

It has a diverse diet that includes a variety of marine animals, such as mollusks, crustaceans, and small fish. Occasionally, it supplements its diet with insects, invertebrates and aquatic plants, such as eelgrass and seaweed.

To search for food, the Stejneger’s scoter will dive underwater, using its webbed feet to propel itself to search for and capture prey. While foraging food in shallow waters, it will upend and dabble on the surface.

Nesting & Mating Habits

Pairs form in late autumn, with their breeding season falling between March and April.

During courtship displays, males often perform a variety of aerial maneuvers, such as dives and turns, accompanied by loud calls and whistles.

Stejneger’s scoters typically breed in pairs rather than loose colonies in coastal island environments but can also be found on lakes and rivers near their oceanic habitats.

When it comes to nesting sites, Stejneger’s scoters prefer sites located close to water sources, such as shallow pools or islands surrounded by marshy vegetation.

The nest is usually a hollow depression on the ground constructed from grasses, mosses and lichens and lined with down feathers.

The female lays 5-7 eggs, which take an average of 25 days for incubation before hatching. The male may stay for the entire incubation period and then leave to molt with other males.

Your ducks are precocial and are led by their mother to the water hours after hatching. Despite being able to feed and search for their own food, their mothers look after young ducks until they learn how to fly at 8 to 9 weeks.

Threats & Conservation

Despite not having a wide range compared to other sea ducks, the Stejneger’s scoter is widespread where it occurs. Currently, the species is considered “Least Concern” by the IUCN.

However, due to climate change, human disturbance, and habitat loss, Stejneger’s scoter’s population has been in slow decline for the past few years.

Key Points

  • Females lay 5 to 7 eggs and incubate alone.
  • The male is easy to identify with its mostly black plumage and the conspicuous knob at the top of its dark orange bill.
  • The Stejneger’s scoter primarily feeds on crustaceans, mollusks, clams, small fish and aquatic invertebrates.

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