This week’s photo, taken January 12, 2015 from the fishing pier in Edmonds, WA, features an adult male SURF SCOTER.
During the winter months, there are lots of sea ducks that fly fast and low past the Edmonds pier. The adult male SURF SCOTER is one of the most common and also one of the easiest to identify, thanks to its large multi-colored bill and the bright white patches on its nape and forehead.
This time of year, during low tide, it’s common to see a raft of 20 – 50 Surf Scoters floating on the water near the pier. The scoters paddle as a group up to the pier’s support pillars, where they use their strong bills to break off mussels from the pillars that are now exposed due to the lower water level.
The scoters’ feeding routine is fun to watch. These nervous birds take a while to gather the confidence to approach the pier, but when they finally do (perhaps after listening to a motivational speech from their leader), they paddle toward the pier together, apparently believing in strength in numbers. After they quickly grab a snack, they hurriedly push away from the pier in unison, using their powerful bright red legs. Then they paddle in again, and then they paddle out again, and then they repeat that pattern, over and over, sometimes for hours.