Melanitta fusca (Linnaeus, 1758)
Family: Anseriformes > Anatidae
This largely black seaduck, with white wing patches, is a winter visitor and passage migrant to UK coastal waters.
Velvet Scoters begin arriving on UK waters during late summer and undertake a post-breeding moult. As the autumn progresses these early birds are joined by more individuals and numbers continue to build through the winter as more birds move south from the Scandinavian and arctic Russian breeding grounds. At this time some Velvet Scoters move south and west into the English Channel.
Wetland Bird Survey data reveal that a small number of Scottish bays and estuaries hold the majority of wintering Velvet Scoter in the UK. Numbers can fluctuate between years but the wintering population has been estimated to number just over 3,000 individuals.
Select a topic for more facts and statistics about the Velvet Scoter
Velvet Scoter identification is sometimes difficult. The following article may help when identifying Velvet Scoter.
Scoters are known to most of us as winter visitors, usually far off shore. How can we tell the difference between the species, when we see them far out to sea in poor viewing conditions? It's surprisingly easy!
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Status and Trends
Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.
This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.
|UK winter population||-57% decrease (1995/96 to 2020/21)|
The Velvet Scoter has a coastal distribution that is almost continuous from Shetland southwards along the North Sea coast and along the south coast of England; it is patchier elsewhere.
Occupied 10-km squares in UK
|No. occupied in breeding season||1|
|% occupied in breeding season||0.03|
|No. occupied in winter||289|
|% occupied in winter||9.6|
European Distribution Map
There has been a 65% increase in the number of 10-km squares occupied by Velvet Scoters since the 1981–84 Winter Atlas. Some gains may reflect improved coverage but increases in Shetland and the Firth of Forth and the losses in Orkney are probably genuine.
|% change in range in winter (1981–84 to 2007–11)||+56.3%|
Velvet Scoters are mostly winter visitors, with records peaking in late autumn. Some birds are known to summer and others arrive in late summer to moult in British waters.
Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.
Lifecycle and body size information about Velvet Scoter, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.
View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report
|Typical Lifespan||8 years with breeding typically at 2 year|
|Adult Survival||0.84±0.07 ( Female: 0.84±0.07)|
Sample sizes are too small to report Biometrics for this species.
Feather measurements and photos on featherbase
|Field Codes||2-letter: VS | 5-letter code: VELSC | Euring: 2150|
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