Velvet Scoter

Melanitta fusca (Linnaeus, 1758) VS VELSC 2150
Family: Anseriformes > Anatidae

Velvet Scoter, Gray Images

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.


Velvet Scoter identification is sometimes difficult. The following article may help when identifying Velvet Scoter.

related video

Identifying Scoters

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!

Develop your bird ID skills with our training courses

Our interactive online courses are a great way to develop your bird identification skills, whether you're new to the hobby or a competent birder looking to hone your abilities.

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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.




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

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2


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.


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.

Weekly occurence of Velvet Scoter from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.


Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.


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


Sample sizes are too small to report Biometrics for this species.

Feather measurements and photos on featherbase


For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Lach-dhubh
Welsh: Môr-hwyaden y Gogledd
Catalan: ànec fosc
Czech: turpan hnedý
Danish: Fløjlsand
Dutch: Grote Zee-eend
Estonian: tõmmuvaeras
Finnish: pilkkasiipi
French: Macreuse brune
German: Samtente
Hungarian: füstös réce
Icelandic: Korpönd
Irish: Sceadach
Italian: Orco marino
Latvian: (tumša pile), velna pile
Lithuanian: paprastoji nuodegule
Norwegian: Sjøorre
Polish: uhla (zwyczajna)
Portuguese: negrola-d'asa-branca
Slovak: turpan tmavý
Slovenian: beloliska
Spanish: Negrón especulado
Swedish: svärta
Folkname: Astracannet

Links to more information from

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