Male Surf Scoter about to swallow an impressively large clam



Male and female Surf Scoters

These superb photos were taken by Terry Venables and are used with his permission.

Can you imagine starting your day by swallowing a large, clenched, cold clam together with attached grit and weed? Hard to distinguish in dim light from a similarly sized rock. And then, and this is not for the squeamish, imagine yourself as a Surf Scoter, having crushed the clam in your gizzard, excreting the variously sized shelly bits. In “Birds of Coastal British Columbia” by Nancy Baron and John Acorn, the authors wonder how much of the sand on local beaches sand passed through the innards of scoters.

Surf Scoters (Melanitta perspicillata), are by far the most numerous of the three species of scoters are  observed in winter along the foreshores of the Saanich Peninsula especially where clams and mussels are abundant (Roberts Bay, Patricia Bay).  In the spring, Surf Scoters will migrate to breeding grounds to the north where they will nest alongside rivers, ponds, lakes, the ocean, even in forests. Tough customers!

2 thoughts on “Gleep!

  1. A very nicely written story, and an interesting species for sure. It was on one of your Friends of Shoal Harbour walks along Scoter Trail that I learned this species wintered here and it sparked my interest in photographing them and many other creatures that live in our beautiful North Saanich!
    Lots more images from this area on my site at for anyone interested.


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