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#ABArare – Common Scoter – California

On January 25, Bill Bouton found and photographed an apparent Common Scoter in the Crescent City boat basin in Del Norte county, California.  This is not only a first California record, but the first ABA Area record of this species, recently split from Black Scoter by the AOU.

Photo by Bill Bouton, used with permission

Photo by Bill Bouton, used with permission

Crescent City is in far northern California. The closest major city is Portland, Oregon, about 330 miles to the north. San Francisco is 350 miles to the south. The bird has been seen in the Crescent City harbor, near the northwest side of Citizen’s Dock Road at the boast basin, where there is ample parking available. Since being reported to the listserv on 1/31 (Bouton was on the road and without resources to confirm his initial suspicions) it had been seen all day on 2/1.

Common Scoter was split from the North American Black Scoter (or American Scoter) by the BOU in 2005, a decision which was echoed by the AOU in 2010 by virtue of plumage differences (particularly among adult males), but also differences in vocalizations as well.

Common Scoter breeds across the north of Europe east to central Russia. Prior to this California bird the closest the species has come to North America is Greenland, which has a handful of records. In fact, this species has been long expected to show up at some point in the ABA Area, but the fact that it was first in California rather than somewhere in the northeast is certainly a surprise.

Appropriately, Tom Johnson wrote an article on identification of scoters, including Common Scoter, in the December 2014 issue of Birding magazine.

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Nate Swick

Nate Swick

Editor, Social Media Manager at American Birding Association
Nate Swick is the editor of the American Birding Association Blog, social media manager for the ABA, and the host of the American Birding Podcast. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Danielle, and two young children. He is the author of Birding for the Curious and The ABA Field Guide to Birds of the Carolinas.
Nate Swick

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  • Wim van Dam

    Actually, Bill Bouton saw and photographed the bird a week ago on January 25. This is probably encouraging for those who will take a few days to get themselves to Del Norte county.

  • John Kendall

    If you apply the logic ABA CLC used to not accept the 3 states decisions on Hooded Crane, this bird should not be accepted. It had even further distances out of its range to travel. Of course, this species was on the ABA List of “expected” vagrants, so it gets a pass? The inconsistency of the CLC and arbitrary logic is baffling.

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