American White-winged Scoter

Blackdog, Aberdeen- an American ssp. deglandi …candidate.

Got phone call y’day evening from top geezer Chris Gibbins. Chris, Paul Baxter and Hywel Maggs hade seen an interesting first summer male Scoter (with white wings). Trouble is it’s a way out , hard to see the fullest details on, and picture are not all easy to obtain.

They are rightly cautious!

Nevertheless looking through the photos and listening to Chris’ description 3 things stand out:

1) The colour on the bill is restricted towards the bill tip  lacking the full reach back of young male Velvet (young males ghost the adult male pattern)

2) the colour is pinkish (yellow on Velvet)

3) the head shape is peculiarly squarish, fuller (more Eider-like) and in the first of the photos below look spot on for American White-winged Scoter.

They are in full agreement that these features are present on field views. The reason I use the word candidate above, is I really think it is one- but given the pressure on folk travelling, spending money, and the fact that this will be a First for Britain– it’s an anxious thing to make such a big call. They wish they had better views, but they are courageously willing to stick their collective neck out- and I think with very good reason!

American White-winged Scoter, Blackdog, Aberdeen, 11 and 12th June 2011

Nick Littlewood then obtained better photos today and they were able to confirm features such as profile of head and bill and extent of colour on the bill. The bird is moulting inner primaries/ outer secondaries so would be expected to hang around for a while…

Thanks to David Cooper- 2 v. helpful photos of 1st summer male White-winged Scoter taken at Point Pelee last month. (Nostalgic mo- where I saw my first in 1985!)

(all photos below Chris Gibbins – yesterday)

On separation from Stejneger’s Scoter

in first summer plumage

Hope this helps, as I have been asked this question a couple times already. Basically the head/ bill profile is actually v different between White-winged and Stejneger’s. On White-winged there is  a 2  ‘stepped’ profile versus a continuous line from crown to basal knob on Stejneger’s. This is obvious on adults but also true (to lesser extent) on first summer males. Furthermore the ‘yellow lick’ originally highlight as an easy ‘aid memoire’ for male Stejneger’s is also apparent on 1st summer males as bill colour appears. Ian Lewington illustrated it when we worked on it together. You can hopefully see what I mean below.

It’s of course a lot easy on a bird at point black range than one on choppy seas, but the lack of yellow lick on the Aberdeen bird and the stepped profile, points most favourably towards American White-winged.

One thought on “American White-winged Scoter

  1. Julian Hough

    Interesting bird. I think your comments are apt – certainly looks good enough to put it out with caveat and let people make their own mind up. The overall shape, with a large head and bill profile looks good for deglandi based on my experience and the great illustrations by Ian. I am not familiar with first-summer and have never seen Velvet and White-winged together in the US (pretty sure there is no reccord of fusca in the east?) but I’d be interested to see if Velvet’s look particularly smaller-headed and ride a little higher in the water comparatively. Great post about the stepped profile differences. Good to see you last week..I’ll be in touch!



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