In winter rain… White-winged Scoter. (Chignik Lake, January 6, 2017)
A species that only shows up once in three years at a given location would best be described as “accidental,” and so it is with the White-winged Scoter, a bird much more likely to be found in the salt chuck most of the year. There they take in the usual diving duck diet of mollusks, crustaceans and small fish. Formerly classified as conspecific with Europe’s Velvet Scoter (cool name), White-wingeds nest in boreal forests – and less frequently on tundra – from interior Alaska through western Canada.
With almost silky-black plumage, it’s easy to see why the European version (Melanitta fusca) is called Velvet Scoter. The colorful bill and Nike eye-swoosh add to the White-winged’s striking look. (Wikipedia: )
I’ve read elsewhere that White-wingeds can be quite difficult to get close enough to for a photograph, so I felt lucky to make good my one opportunity with a bird in flight showing his diagnostic white markings. He was probably passing from one side of the peninsula to the other on that windy, rain-soaked January day when he decided to give the lake a look.
White-winged Scoter Melanitta deglandi
Melanitta: from Ancient Greek: melas = black; netta = duck
deglandi: Latinization of Degland, for French ornithologist Côme Damien Degland
Status at Chignik Lake, 2016-19: Rare to Accidental on Chignik Lake
David Narver, Birds of the Chignik River Drainage, summers 1960-63: Rare on Chignik Lagoon
Alaska Peninsula and Becharof National Wildlife Refuge Bird List, 2010: Common in Spring and Fall; Uncommon in Summer and Winter
Next Article: Common Goldeneye
*For a clickable list of bird species and additional information about this project, click here: Birds of Chignik Lake
© Photographs, images and text by Jack Donachy unless otherwise noted.