English and Scientific names:

White-winged Scoter

Melanitta fusca

Number of individuals:

1 non-adult male

Locality: LOUISIANA:


Specific Locality:

Holly Beach, ca. 3 miles W of ferry

Date(s) when observed:


Time(s) of day when observed:

ca. 3:45-4:00

Reporting observer and address:

Paul Conover

Lafayette, LA

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


Dave Patton

Other observers who independently identified the bird(s):


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

Bright, seas conditions with enough wave to make birds bob in and out of sight.

Optical equipment:

Nikon Fieldscope III, 60mm with 20-60 zoom.

Distance to bird(s):

70-100 yards

Duration of observation:

10-15 minutes of viewing


Gulf, nearshore.

Behavior of bird:

Bird was drifting, not diving. The bird was in a flock of perhaps a dozen mixed sex and age Surf Scoters, and 1 adult male Black Scoter.


While scoping a flock of scoters where Patton had observed a WWSC the day before, we noticed a seemingly all dark scoter on the edge of the flock. The birdís posture and shape seemed different from the other scoters, with a rounder curve to the higher back(=slightly more humped), and a different bill shape from the others. The light was horrible, frankly, but we walked to the beach and got to within about 70 yards of the bird. The bird was brown on the sides, darker on the mantle and head.From the shape of the bill, it appeared that a small thinner tip of bill extended from a thicker, presumably thivkly feathered, base. The bill was readily comparable to the Surf next to it. A Black Scoter was nearby for comparison as well.

The bird began to preen, revealing obvious bright white secondaries. The white panel extended throughout the secondaries. I watched it open and speard one wing at a time and pull the feathers of the secondaries with its bill for perhaps a minute, getting nice looks.

We werenít able to see any pale head markings, but we tried to take photos through the scope. I took a few that are worthless, and was going to make sure I got diagnostic photos, but Mac Myers pulled up on the highway and began to wave frantically; he had news of a Black Rail, so we left quickly without hard documentation.


Not heard.

Similar species:

The bulkiness and all-dark coloration separate this bird from dabblers such as Gadwall. Among the scoters, only WW has white secondaries.

Photographs or tape recordings obtained?

Very poor. Probably not useful. One included for shape.

Previous experience with this species:

Seen a few times before. Not extensive experience w/WW, but field marks are obvious, and I do have wider experience with the other scoters.

Identification aids:


This description is written from:

Memory. I had plenty of time to note and repeat all of the field marks as I watched it.

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




Paul Conover

Date and time:

June 2008