Velvet Scoter

Melanitta fusca

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The Velvet Scoter is a large, bulky sea duck, which breeds across Eurasia and North America. In Germany, it can be seen in large flocks as a migrant and winter visitor, mainly on the North Sea and Baltic Sea coasts from October to April. The drake has black plumage and can be identified by the white speculum, the white half-ring under the eye and a yellow to orange bill. The female has brownish plumage with a pale patch at the base of the bill and on the cheek. The base of the bill is thickened. A typical feature of the velvet scoter is the way it dives in search of food, even in high waves. They dive up to 10 metres into the water and prey on aquatic insects and their larvae, smaller fish, aquatic plants, molluscs and crustaceans. The breeding grounds of the velvet scoter are in boreal coniferous forests and mountain lakes. Mating already takes place in the wintering areas in a group courtship display, in which the drakes approach the females by diving. The males and females are already mated when they arrive at the breeding grounds. Ground nests are built near water bodies from plant parts and down, also in gull colonies. Between 7 and 9 cream-white eggs are laid. Only the female incubates for about 29 days, while the drakes migrate to the moulting areas. The chicks are independent at an early age. Velvet scoter populations are in decline, especially due to marine pollution, gillnet fishing and disturbance from sand and gravel extraction. In accordance with §7 para. 2 nos. 13-14 of the Federal Law on Nature Conservation (BNatSchG), the velvet scoter belongs to the specially protected species as a "European bird species". Nevertheless, it may be hunted from 1 October to 15 January in accordance with §1 of the Federal Directive on Hunting Seasons.

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