North American Birds

VOLUME 68 NO4 2015

A Quarterly Journal of Ornithological Record Published by the American Birding Association. The mission of the journal is to provide a complete overview of the changing panorama of our continent’s birdlife.

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Figure 1. Common Scoter, Crescent City, California, 25 January 2015. The dark knob at the base of the culmen and the small yellow-orange patch distinguish this adult male Common Scoter from adult male Black Scoter (Figures 5, 10). Adult males of the two species are most easily distinguished in the feld by bill coloration and structure. In the Crescent City Common Scoter, the anterior portion of the patch appeared yellowish, blending into a more intense orange color in the basal portion (compare Figure 4). Photograph by William A. Bouton. of discovery. It was not observed in fight on this day. A few Surf Scoters (M. perspicillata) were present nearby for comparison, but no other scoter species were present. None of the group members had previ- ously observed an adult male Black Scoter. Sibley (2014), as well as other reference books on hand, indicated that adult male Black Scoter should have a completely or- ange basal knob on the bill. Sibley (2014) depicts frst-winter male Black Scoter hav- ing a small yellow patch near where the knob will develop with maturity, but such birds have brownish plumage, similar to fe- males. The group concluded that the bird must be either a very nearly adult bird or perhaps an aberrant individual. Identifcation On 30 January 2015, Bouton arrived home and examined his photographs. Noting the similarity of the Crescent City scoter to de- pictions of Common Scoter (M. nigra) in references in his library (Madge and Burn 1988, Alderfer 2014), he sent photographs of the scoter to David Svetich, who imme- with clear sky, calm winds, and sunlight from behind the observers. Bouton took sev- eral photographs of the bird (Figures 1, 2). The bird's plumage appeared jet black, at times appearing slaty black in certain light; at closest range and in direct light, the up- perparts showed a strong brown compo- nent. The black of the head often showed a glossy quality; the feathering at the base of the bill sometimes appeared a shade darker than the rest of the head. The long, graduat- ed tail was blackish. The bird's bill appeared very dark gray to glossy black, depending on the light and distance, and sported a basal osseous knob of the same tone; on the center of the culmen was a yellowish or- ange patch that became more deeply orange around the nares. This patch extended as a very narrow line up a shallow groove in the center of the knob. The tomia were yel- low, visible when the bird preened, and the interior of the mouth was also yellow. The eyes were dark brown and the orbital ring distinctly yellow. The bird's legs and feet were not observed. The bird was not heard to vocalize or make wing noises on the day n o r t h a m e r i c a n b i r d s 450 First North American record of Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra) First North American record of Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra) WIllIAm A. BoutoN • 2221 King Court 16 • San LuiS obiSpo, CaLifornia 93401 • (boutonbiLL@gmaiL.Com) RoBeRt C. FoWleR, JR. • 1386 fernwood drive • mCKinLeyviLLe, CaLifornia 95519 • (migratoriuSfwLr@gmaiL.Com) Abstract This paper provides documentation on the discovery and identifcation of an adult male Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra) at Crescent City, Del Norte County 25 January 2015, a frst record for California and for North America. Field encounter On 25 January 2015, at 11:30 a.m., Bou- ton, Patricia Price, David Svetich, and Susan Svetich began searching the Crescent City harbor area in Del Norte County, California for an Ancient Murrelet (Synthliboramphus antiquus) that had been reported there ear- lier in the week. As the group scanned the harbor area, Bouton spotted a scoter that appeared to be an adult male Black Scoter (Melanitta americana) that had an unusual distribution of orange on the bill. The bird kept to the far side of the channel, diving regularly, and preened several times as the group observed it over the next 30-40 min- utes. The bird was initially seen about 115 m away and was eventually seen as close as about 75 m. Weather conditions were ideal,

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