Birda Logo
Species Guide
A photo of a Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra), male
Common Scoter, Male

Common Scoter

Melanitta nigra

The common scoter, Melanitta nigra, is a robust sea duck with a distinctive silhouette. Males are cloaked in an inky blackness with a unique bulbous bill, tinged with yellow around the nostrils. Females, on the other hand, are garbed in brown with paler cheeks, a subtle contrast to their male counterparts.

Identification Tips

To identify the common scoter, look for the absence of white on the male (drake) and note the more pronounced pale areas on the female. This differentiates them from other scoter species, with the exception of the black scoter.


These birds are found breeding in the northern reaches of Europe and across the Palearctic to the Olenyok River, favoring coastal areas, lakes, rivers, woodlands, and tundra environments.


During the winter months, the common scoter migrates south to temperate coastal regions of Europe, reaching as far as Morocco. They are known to form large, tightly packed flocks in these areas.


The common scoter is a sociable bird, often seen in dense flocks that take flight and dive in unison. Their nesting sites are constructed on the ground near water bodies, where they lay 6-8 eggs in a well-lined nest.

Song & Calls

The common scoter's vocalizations are distinct and can be used to differentiate it from the black scoter, with each species having its own identifiable calls.


Breeding takes place in secluded areas close to water. The female lays a clutch of 6-8 eggs, which she incubates in a nest lined with vegetation.

Diet and Feeding

Diving is the common scoter's method of foraging, primarily for crustaceans and molluscs. When inland on freshwater, their diet expands to include aquatic insects and small fish.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List categorizes the common scoter as Least Concern. However, certain populations, such as those in the UK, have experienced significant declines, leading to conservation efforts to bolster their numbers.

Similar Species

The black scoter (M. americana) is often considered a close relative and sometimes a subspecies. It shares many physical characteristics but can be distinguished by its distinct vocalizations and some differences in plumage.

Diet and Feeding

The common scoter's diet consists of crustaceans, molluscs, aquatic insects, and small fish, which they obtain by diving in both saltwater and freshwater environments.

Conservation status

The common scoter is currently listed as Least Concern by the IUCN. However, certain regional populations, such as those in the UK, are under threat, leading to targeted conservation actions to address declines in breeding pairs.

App logo
Birda is a birdwatching app and community aimed at curious people who want to deepen their connection with nature.

Common Scoter Fun Facts

Did you know?
Common Scoters can dive as deep as 30 meters to catch shellfish.

Common Scoters on Birda


More Ducks, Geese, Swans

A photo of a Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata) , male

Mandarin Duck

Aix galericulata
Birda Logo

Your birdwatching journey like never before

Connect with nature in minutes
Take a walk, look out of the window and log the birds that you see. Feel good about those little connections to nature.
Discover the joy of birding
Find new birding spots, see more birds, share and celebrate with a like-minded community of nature lovers.
Play your part in saving nature
Logging your birding sightings and sessions turns into positive action for our planet. Every sighting counts.

Birda Blog

What Our Birders Say
Wonderful App
Birda is my go to app for keeping records of my bird sightings and sessions. It has fantastic information which is great at aiding identification. With all the updates that are coming in the new year, this app is something special.
Great app for beginner twitchers
I’ve had a passion of photographing birds for a long time now but have only just gotten into proper birdwatching, and this app is brilliant for those just getting started. There is a great sense of community among users and the app is very easy to use and professional. Awesome app altogether
Fantastic app - Love it!
Love this app and have used it almost daily. Lots of species information and easy to use. Love seeing birds spotted by other users in the UK and worldwide.
Birda fan
I really enjoy using Birda, all sightings are recorded and photos can be added. There are monthly challenges which help to get you out to record your sightings. The Birda community are great and are happy to help with unidentified bird sightings. Suitable for all ages and experience!
We've been waiting for an App like this
Excellent! We've been waiting for an app like this! Thank you! It would be nice if you could assign additional birds to sessions later!
Learning Birding with Birda
I’m relatively new to birding as a hobby, and Birda is a great way to keep track off all the species I see. I’m still working on my ID skills, but the app is great for figuring out potential species, and the online community is so friendly and helpful. Definitely recommend Birda to both early and serious birders! 🐦
The best bird logging app
Birda is honestly the best bird logging app I have seen. I love all the features it has from being able to do a session and log all the birds you see in one sitting, to being able to connect with other birders from all over the globe!
Ideal Birdwatch Companion
Simply adds to the enjoyment of my birdwatching and helps me record what I’ve seen.
Patricia L
Very encouraging birding app
Easy to use, fun to see progress and encouraging to receive feedback from other users.
Really great app
It’s easy to use and it’s fun to log the birds you notice on a walk or just in your garden. There’s a option to record the birds you see in a session which is really nice. Good excuse to stop for a while and just watch birds. I am also enjoying the information part where you can find out fact about birds from all over the world.
As featured in
AboutPressAmbassadorsAffiliatesInfluencersCareersPrivacyTerms & Conditions
An app for birdwatchers
Giving back
Connect with us
Copyright © 2024 Chirp Birding. All rights reserved.