Photographing The Velvet Scoter

Written by Gina Stephens

They slip on the sea looking for food in perfectly synchronized rows, our birds of the week are the velvet scoters.


The velvet scoter is a large and powerful sea duck. It can originate up to 58 centimetres long and weighs about two kilograms; females are often slightly lighter than males. At first glance, both sexual congresses look similar but some details can help differentiate them.

The male plumage is black with a white spot under the eye. The bill is orange-yellow with a wicked knob and a reddish nail. The female is brown and has two white patches on each side of the head, one between the eye and the beak, the other behind the eye. The bill is murky grey. Both males and females have a clearly visible white wing bar during flight.

The velvet scoter can easily be confused with the reciprocal scoter scoters are stocky seaducks in the genus Melanitta but the velvet scoter is slightly larger and bulkier.



The velvet scoter breeds in northern Europe and Asia, from Scandinavia to the river Yenisei in Siberia. They predominantly winter in the Baltic Sea. Velvet scoters prefer to stay in northern coniferous forests, mountain lakes and wooded coastlines during the breeding ripen.



The velvet scoter mainly feed on molluscs and crustaceans like shells, snails, small crabs and other small seagoing animals. When searching for food, several birds dive synchronously with no jump and slightly open wings.

In May and June, the scoters report to their breeding grounds. At this time, most couples have already found each other and immediately start building the hideaway. The nest is built not too far from the water; it is a simple depression on the ground lined with plant matter. The female usually lays seven to nine eggs and broods them for about a month. The male leaves soon after the female starts incubating. The chicks are quite independent after hatching and already look for rations while they walk behind their mother.

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About the author

Gina Stephens

Gina is a photography enthusiast and drone lover who loves to fly drones, capture images and have fun cherishing them with family and friends.

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