Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2014-032

Common name:

Black Scoter

Scientific name: Melanitta americana
Date: 15 Nov 2014
Time: 11:30 AM
Length of time observed: ~3 minutes each
Number: 2
Age: Female-type plumage (adult female or immature of unknown sex)
Location: Antelope Island Causeway
County: Davis
Elevation: 4192.5 feet
Distance to bird: 50 yards
Optical equipment:  Nikon spotting scope.
Weather: Cold and windy, 20s F.
Light Conditions: Overcast.
Description:        Size of bird: Medium-large duck.
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Duck-shaped.
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Black. Details below.
(Description:)            Bill Type: Duck bill
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Overall a blackish duck. Both individuals spent most of the time sleeping when we observed them, making identification difficult. Only when they briefly raised their heads to stretch were we able to confidently make the identification. Mostly a featureless blackish body in duck shape. Small duck bill, not large and sloped as in Surf Scoter. Pale ashy cheeks contrasting strongly with black crown. No white spots on side of head, just broad patch of pale ashy color.
(see photo)
Song or call & method of delivery: None.
Behavior: Mostly sleeping. Stretched or swam briefly.
Habitat: Surface of the Great Salt Lake. The first bird was seen at the second (west) bridge of the Antelope Island Causeway. The second bird was seen inside the Antelope Island Marina just minutes later. Both birds were sleeping when seen and no birds were seen flying between these locations in the few minutes it took us to drive from one location to the other, so we are confident that these are two different birds.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Dark black plumage on a duck shape eliminates most species. American Coot eliminated by duck-shaped bill, pale cheeks, and lack of white marks on undertail. White-winged Scoter eliminated by absence of white in the wing, lack of white patches on the face, and smaller duck-shaped bill. Surf Scoter probably cannot be eliminated on the basis of the only photo I have of the sleeping bird at the causeway, because they too can have a pale rear cheek contrasting with a black crown and nape, but in life the bird was seen to lift its head: the solid pale ashy cheek with no white spots and the small duck-shaped bill, seen on both birds, eliminates Surf Scoter.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I have seen all three scoter species on many occasions. According to my eBird records, I have seen well over a hundred Black Scoters in a range of plumages in Alaska, Utah, and Washington, as well as almost as many White-winged Scoters and several times as many Surf Scoters.
References consulted: None.
Description from: From photo(s) taken at the time of the sighting
Observer: Ryan P. O'Donnell
Observer's address: 1098 Crescent Dr., Logan, UT 843418 Crescent Dr., Logan, UT 84341
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Andrew Durso, Bob Atwood, Cullen Clark, Britney Clark, Kendal Morris, Mike Taylor, Peter Bergeson, Tim Sullivan, Courtney (last name unknown), and Jeanne Sullivan were in my party. One of these birds had been reported at this location (the bridge) since 11 November 2014, and the second bird I believe was originally found by our group. The most recent sighting of two individuals reported to eBird (as of this writing on 20 Nov) was on 16 Nov, and one individual was reported on 17 Nov.
Date prepared: 20 Nov 2014
Additional material: Photo
Additional_Comments: I have only one poor photograph of one of the two birds, but both birds have been well-documented by others. For example, here are two good photos of the bridge bird: and . Here is a photo of the marina bird, taken by Cullen Clark during the observation reported here:

nnina: No Name IF Not Accepted