Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2008-34

Common name:

Black Scoter

Scientific name: Melanitta nigra
Date: 19 Nov 2008
Time: 10:30 am
Length of time observed: 5 minutes
Number: 1
Age: adult
Sex: female
Location: Lincoln Beach
County: Utah
Latilong: 6
Elevation: ~4,600 feet
Distance to bird: ~150 feet
Optical equipment: 8x42 binoculars, 20-60x80 Kowa spotting scope, Nikon Coolpix 4500 camera
Weather: sunny with a little haze over the valley
Light Conditions: clear
Description:        Size of bird: similar to nearby coots
(Description:)       Basic Shape: duck shaped
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: gray brown body with black and white head.
(Description:)            Bill Type: duck-like
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
The rounded head was black on the upper part starting from just blow the eye and continuing down the back of the neck in a narrowing strip. The lower part of the head was whitish except for the area around the bill. This white area continued a little bit down the side of the neck angling backwards.  The mainly gray-colored bill was slightly hooked at the end and had a very gradual bump in the middle of the top border with a little bit of yellow which can be seen on the photos.
The duck-shaped body was grayish brown with a small sharp tall protruding at about a 40 degree angle from the rear.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: none
Behavior: It was hanging around two American Coots and diving now and then.
Habitat: A shallow part of Utah Lake near the densely vegetated shoreline of a boat jetty.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
A Ruddy Duck would have a more squared off bill (not hooked) with a concave culmen (rather than one with a gentle bump in the middle as in this bird) and would lack any yellow color on the bill. The white on the cheeks would not extend down the side of the neck.

A Surf Scoter would have a more elongated head with a thicker bill, less white on the neck and and isolated white patch at the base of the bill rather than the whole area being white.

A White-winged Scoter would have an elongated more squarish head with a more wedge-shaped bill thicker at the base.  It would have less white on the head and in two patches rather than the whole bottom half of the head being white.

Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I've seen the two other scoters in Utah and many Ruddy Ducks but this one has eluded me until now.
References consulted: The Sibley Guide to Birds
Description from: From memory and examining the photo
Observer: Milton Moody
Observer's address: 2795 Indian Hills Drive, Provo, Utah
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Leena Rogers was with me on November 19th and several others reported the bird earlier:  Dave Hanscom; Lu Giddings, Erich Huish, Ned Bixler, Cheryl Peterson, Dennis Shirley and Bryan Shirley on the 16th and ; Keeli Marvel and Jeff Bilsky on the 18th
Date prepared: 24 Nov 2008
Additional material: Photos
Additional Comments: