Black Scoters off Longboat Key

For the second consecutive winter, I have observed a flock of black scoters off Greer Beach, on the northwest coast of Longboat Key, Florida.  These ducks breed along inland lakes of Alaska, northwest Canada and the northern Canadian Maritimes; there they nest in clumps of tundra grass, raising 6 to 10 young.

Migrations occur primarily along the Pacific and Atlantic Coasts of North America though a fair number are encountered on the Great Lakes and on large reservoirs of the central U.S.  Most winter in coastal marine waters, from the Aleutians to the California Baja and from Newfoundland to the Carolinas; while some also winter along the northern Gulf Coast, I have not seen other reports of their presence off the beaches of South Florida.

Yesterday's flock numbered twelve scoters, including two adult males, easily recognized by the orange knobs on their upper bill.  The birds remained in a tight flock while feeding and flying; indeed, even their dives occurred in unison.  Black scoters feed primarily on small fish, aquatic invertebrates and, to a lesser degree, on aquatic grasses.  Hopefully, these fascinating birds will become regular winter residents along Longboat Key.