White-winged Scoter a ‘seaduck’

The White-winged Scoter is one of the “seaducks.”
There are three species of Scoters which live in Canada, but this is the only one that lives in the interior of the country.
The other two usually are in the Arctic or on the ocean coasts.
This is quite a good-sized and heavy-looking duck, running up to about three-and-a-half pounds (or 1.6 kg).
The male is black, with a conspicuous white crescent-shaped mark below its white eye. It also has a white patch on its wing.
This patch looks quite small when the bird is at rest, but it is quite prominent when he is flying.
The female is more of a dark brown, but the white wing patches are the same.
Scoters give the impression of having sloped foreheads, with feathers covering a large part of the beak. The drake sports a beak which is quite bright orange.
This bird breeds in the north, from Alaska to Northern Ontario. It lives on inland lakes and rivers in all the western provinces and territories, and north to the barren grounds.
There is some question as to whether it breeds east of James Bay, but it did at one time nest as far south as North Dakota.
Being a fairly stocky, weighty bird has its drawbacks in getting airborne. They usually have to head into the wind (like aircraft do) and paddle furiously for a while to get up off the water.
Once in the air, the flight is quite fast and straight. They often seem to fly in pairs—sometimes just above the water with that straight, powerful line.
These are quiet ducks. They sometimes make brief, guttural croaks but they never quack like other ducks do.
Years ago, people thought that they whistled, but that is not likely true. Rather, the drake makes those whistling sounds with his wings when he is putting on a display for his lady.
As far as table fare goes, there are not birds which are sought after very much. They live almost entirely on animal matter, and not plants very often.
Most of their food seems to be small shellfish, clams, mollusks, and so on. They go after these in a big way—diving as much as 40 feet to get at barnacles and other clingers.
They also are fond of crayfish, slugs, snails, and the like.
Scoters winter along both sea coasts, but a few always have wintered on the Great Lakes. The Lake Ontario number of wintering birds has grown quite a bit since the unhappy introduction of the zebra mussel.
Scoters easily can break off these little animals, and they eat a huge amount of them.
Incidentally, the birds have a modified digestive system which allows them to get rid of the shells, either by chemical means or grinding (no one being quite sure at this time).
There are two other Scoters which do not live anywhere near Ontario at all. The Black Scoter breeds only in Alaska and the Ungava area.
The male is all black, with a bright yellow beak.
The third on is the Surf Scoter, which has a large square-looking head. Its orange-yellow beak has some white patches on it.
It also has white patches on its forehead and neck. It is mainly black, but has an odd look about it.
These sometimes winter on Lake Ontario, as well, but the vast majority head for the ocean coasts for their holidays.
The White-winged Scoter and its relatives exist in surprisingly large numbers. We don’t see them very much because they tend to stay away from us.
You may see the White-wing sometimes, but your chances at the other two are pretty slim.

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