This large sea duck is recognized by its wedge-shaped bill with long fleshy lobes that extend from the nostrils toward the eyes, and with feathering that extends down the sides of the bill. The shape of these features varies among the four different races that breed in North America. Male: In alternate plumage, males are mostly white, with black crown, sides, and tail area. The nape is usually tinged pale green. Bill color ranges from greenish-yellow in eastern populations to bright orange in Pacific populations. Males in basic plumage are dark brown overall with a broad paler line through the eye. Young males are dark brown with various amounts of white on the breast and scapulars. Female: Colors range from gray-brown to rusty brown, with dark barring overall. The head and neck are not strongly patterned.
Length: 58 (cm) Wingspan: 89 (cm)
During courtship, males give an ardent ah-OOOOooo.
Marine coasts, offshore rocks and shoals.
In winter, spends most of its time on the water, occasionally coming out onto rocks or pack ice. Nests in large colonies with other species of geese and gulls, sometimes laying eggs in other species nests and brooding eggs from other species.
Dives for mollusks and crustaceans.
Many of this very robust marine duck remain as far north as ice conditions allow during the winter. Four of seven subspecies are found in North America. The Pacific S. m. v-nigrum and the more eastern subspecies S. m. dresseri and S. m. borealis are more migratory then the Hudson bay subspecies that is aptly named S. m. sedentaria.
Citation: Goudie, R, Austin Reed, and Gregory J. Robertson. The Birds of North America Online. Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology and AOU, 2000. Print.
Expanded Life History
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