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Surf scoter        Images © Mark A. Chappell

Surf scoters are common in California's coastal waters and bays for much of the year, but they move far to the north to breed.   Both sexes congregate in winter feeding flocks, diving repeatedly for mussels, clams, and other shelfish, which they swallow whole.  The males, as on this page and here, have black-and white coloration and garish multicolored bills.  Females (here) and young males are plain brownish.  These scoters were in a small recreational lake between Mountain View and Palo Alto, California; the other males (including the one eating a clam) were at Bolsa Chica wetlands in coastal Orange County, CA.   Populations of all three species of scoters (the others are white-winged and black scoters) have declined in the past decade.

  • Canon 10D 1D Mk. II, 1D3, or 1D4; 500 mm IS lens or 800 mm IS lens, some with 1.4X or 2X converter, some with fill-in flash (2003, 2007, 2012, 2013, 2014)