Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2004-40

Common name:

Black Scoter

Scientific name: Melanitta nigra
Date: November 8, 2004
Time: 11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Length of time observed: 1 1/2 hours
Number: One
Age: Adult
Sex: Female
Location: Antelope Island Causeway
County: Davis
Distance to bird: From 50 feet up to 50 yards
Optical equipment: Nikon Monarch 10 x 40 binoculars and Swarovski HD ST 80 scope
Weather: From cool and overcast to warm and sunny
Light Conditions: Good
Detailed description of bird: This duck was brown overall with a round head, dark brown cap and nape and light contrasting cheeks. (See photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: None heard
Behavior: This bird was active for the entire time I observed her. She was floating, swimming about, diving, foraging and preening. At times, she had her tail noticeably cocked up. On many occasions, she "reared" up out of the water, flapped her wings vigorously and threw her head downward. This behavior is pictured and described in The Sibley Guide to Birds. The bird was not in the company of any other birds in particular although there were Ruddy Ducks, Eared Grebes, Northern Shovelers and Lesser Scaup in the general area.
Habitat: Open water of the Great Salt Lake
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
The juvenile Surf Scoter was eliminated because of differences in head shape, bill shape and face pattern. The juvenile White-winged Scoter was similarly eliminated; additionally, the subject bird did not have white wing patches. I was able to eliminate the Ruddy Duck when I saw one side by side with the subject bird. The Ruddy Duck is smaller and more compact and has a bill that is flatter and more "scooped". Also, note the dark line across the cheek of the female which the subject bird did not have.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
This is only the second Black Scoter I have seen. The first was a juvenile male located at Mona Reservoir in March 2003. I have only seen Surf Scoters and White-winged Scoters on a few occasions, but am very familiar with Ruddy Ducks.
References consulted: The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America when the scoter was seen. Several other field guides and reference books when compiling this report.
Description from: Notes made later
Observer: Pomera M. Fronce
Observer's address: 2118 East 4850 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84117
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: The initial sighting of the bird occurred on November 7, 2004, by Kathy and Joel Beyer and was observed the next day by Dennis Shirley, Bob Huntington and Steve Carr.
Date prepared: November 9, 2004    (General Public)
Additional material: Photos
Additional comments: This form is intended to supplement the initial sighting report which will likely be submitted by the Beyers.