English and Scientific names:

White-winged Scoter

Number of individuals: 




Specific Locality:

Grand Bayou Quad

Date(s) when observed:


Time(s) of day when observed:  

About 4 mi W of Rutherford Beach community

Reporting observer and address:

Paul Conover

Other observers accompanying reporter who also identified the bird(s):

Mac Myers

Other observers who independently identified the bird(s)

Light conditions (position of bird in relation to shade and to direction and amount of light):

Overcast, sun low in the SW behind us made its presence felt to some degree.  Lighting was good, although by sighting’s end it was getting dim quickly.  

Optical equipment: 

Zeiss 10s, Nikon Fieldscope III ED, Nikon D200 with 300mm lens (effectively 450 mm). 

Distance to bird(s): 

Initially probably 500 yards, but we were able to close to within perhaps 100-150, thereupon they moved out to about 200-300.   

Duration of observation:

Ca. 30 minutes.


Nearshore Gulf, seen from beach. 

Behavior of bird: 

Birds were on Gulf mixed in with large scaup flock.  When first seen, they were diving for up to maybe 15-20 seconds at a time, then up for 2-3 seconds.  As we drove up even with them, scaup flushed and the scoters remained.  At first, the darker bird was presumed to be a WWSC while the other, with a paler face, was of uncertain ID.  However, the white wings became visible from hundreds of yards away as they swam so we were able to ID both quickly as WWSC.  


Darker bird was mainly sooty brown, with small amount of white on face that was hard to detect.  It had an orange tip to bill.  I’m assuming it’s a young male.   


Paler bird had obvious diffuse whitish patches on face.  The most visible patch was at the base of the bill, a broad patch that was fairly discrete.  The other patch, on the auriculars, was broad but diffuse.  It gave the face a pale aspect like a young female Surf Scoter; I assume this bird was a young female. 


Perhaps because the birds were diving so much and rearranging their wings, their white patches were clearly visible much of the time as diagonal slashes far back on their sides.


When birds “stood up” and flapped, the white wing patches were clearly visible on both, extending throughout the secondaries. 


Similar species:

Birds with similar white wing patches: 

·        Gadwall—white wing patch not as extensive. 

·        Red-breasted and Common Merganser—bill narrow.   

Photographs or tape recordings obtained?

After we got close to the birds, I tried to videotape them with probably limited success.  As a desperate measure, I decided to take some pictures of the birds in the gloaming at about 200+ yards where they had joined a group of scaup.  Luckily, the WWSCs started flapping and I got wingshots. 

Previous experience with this species: 

Not much, really.  These birds were instructive in terms of comparison with what I know about Surfs.  I think I’m up to speed with WWSC ID now.     

Identification aids:

Not yet.  

This description is written from: 


Are you positive of your identification? If not, explain: 



Date and time: