Common scoter

Common scoter female

Female common scoter ©John Bridges

Common Scoter

©Derek Moore

Common scoter

Scientific name: Melanitta nigra
The common scoter has suffered large declines in the UK, threatening its survival here. Look out for this duck feeding at sea in winter when its numbers are bolstered by migrating birds.

Species information


Length: 46-50cm
Wingspan: 84cm
Weight: 1kg
Average lifespan: est. 8-16 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Red under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015). Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework.

When to see

January to December


A squat, dark seaduck, the common scoter gathers in flocks of several hundred or even thousands in winter, mostly feeding far out to sea. Common scoters are commonly spotted as a line of dark ducks flying low over the water, or as large rafts of black ducks bobbing on the sea.

How to identify

The male common scoter is our only all-black duck, with just a small patch of yellow on the bill. The female is dark brown, with a paler cheek.


A very rare nesting bird on pools in the far north of Scotland, but a more common winter visitor to our coasts.

Did you know?

Common scoter will dive as deep as 30 metres to hunt for their shellfish prey. While they are under the water, their wings are partially open, helping them to stay balanced.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, researchers, politicians and local people towards a Living Seas vision, where coastal and marine wildlife thrives alongside the sustainable use of the ocean's resources. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust.