White-winged Scoter or Velvet Scoters are large, mostly black or dark gray sea ducks, and the White-winged Scoter is the largest of the three species. All plumages have a white wing-patch, which distinguishes the White-winged Scoter in flight from the other two scoters, which have solid black wings. The White-winged Scoter can also be distinguished by its sloping forehead and bill, which is less bulbous than that of the others. The adult male is solid black with a white comma around a white eye. Its bill is yellow and has a dark knob at the base. The juvenile and the female have light gray patches in front of and behind their eyes, and are dark gray overall with gray bills.

White-winged Scoters nest on freshwater lakes and wetlands in open country in the northwest interior of North America. They winter in open, coastal environments, favoring bays and inlets with sandy shores and shellfish beds. White-winged Scoters are generally found in deeper water and farther from shore than the other scoters.

White-winged Scoters spend the non-breeding part of the year in large flocks on the ocean. They feed almost exclusively by diving, taking prey from the ocean floor, and swallowing the small items under water. Scoters are strong flyers, but must get a running start along the water to get airborne.

White-winged Scoters probably form pair bonds during migration in their second or third year. Nests are built on the ground close to water, and hidden by brush. The nest is a shallow depression lined with down and occasionally additional plant material. The female typically lays 8 to 10 eggs and incubates them for 25 to 30 days. The pair bond dissolves, and the male leaves soon after incubation begins. Pair bonds do not appear to re-form between the same birds in succeeding years. The young leave the nest shortly after hatching and feed themselves. The female tends the young and broods them at night for 1 to 3 weeks, after which she leaves them to fend for themselves. They fledge at 63 to 77 days.

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