This newly split species is listed as Near Threatened on the basis that it is suspected to be undergoing a moderately rapid population decline owing to a number of widespread threats.
Livezey, B. C. 1995. Phylogeny and evolutionary ecology of modern seaducks (Anatidae: Mergini). Condor 97(1): 233-255.
Melanitta nigra has been split into Melanitta nigra and M. americana following a review of recent literature (Livezey 1995, Garner et al. 2004, Sangster et al. 2005, Collinson et al. 2006
Behaviour This species is strongly migratory (del Hoyo et al. 1992) and often travels considerable distances over land making brief stop-overs on inland waters (Madge and Burn 1988). It arrives on its breeding grounds between late-April and May and breeds from late-May onwards (Madge and Burn 1988) in highly dispersed (Kear 2005) solitary pairs (del Hoyo et al. 1992). After mating (from June onwards) males migrate long distances prior to their flightless moult, most travelling in small groups to inshore or offshore coastal waters (Madge and Burn 1988). Females and juveniles leave the breeding grounds in September (Madge and Burn 1988). The species is highly gregarious when not breeding (Madge and Burn 1988) with males forming large congregations during the flightless moulting period (Kear 2005) and large flocks of several hundred to a thousand (Snow and Perrins 1998) or occasionally over 100,000 individuals occurring during winter (Scott and Rose 1996). Non-breeders often oversummer on the wintering grounds (Madge and Burn 1988). Habitat Breeding The species breeds on Arctic dwarf heath (Snow and Perrins 1998, Kear 2005) or boggy tundra on pools, small lakes, streams (del Hoyo et al. 1992) and slow-flowing rivers (Snow and Perrins 1998). It shows a preference for freshwater habitats (del Hoyo et al. 1992) with low banks (Flint et al. 1984), small islets (Kear 2005) and high abundances of aquatic invertebrate and plant life positioned in swampy valleys or among mossy bogs (Flint et al. 1984), especially where suitable shrubs (e.g. willow or birch) and herbaceous vegetation are available for nesting cover (Johnsgard 1978, Snow and Perrins 1998, Kear 2005). It generally avoids areas with steep slopes or wetlands enclosed by forest (Kear 2005). Non-breeding Although the species may use freshwater lakes on migration (Madge and Burn 1988, Kear 2005) the majority moult and overwinter at sea (Kear 2005) on shallow inshore waters less than 20 m deep (Kear 2005) (optimally 5-15 m) (Scott and Rose 1996) with abundant benthic fauna (Kear 2005), generally between 500 m and c.2 km from the shore (Snow and Perrins 1998). Diet Its diet consists predominantly of molluscs, especially during the winter (del Hoyo et al. 1992), although it occasionally takes other aquatic invertebrates such as crustaceans (del Hoyo et al. 1992) (e.g. barnacles and shrimps) (Johnsgard 1978), worms (del Hoyo et al. 1992), echinoderms, isopods, amphidods (Kear 2005) and insects (del Hoyo et al. 1992) (e.g. midges and caddisflies) as well as small fish (del Hoyo et al. 1992) and fish eggs (Snow and Perrins 1998). On the breeding grounds the species may also consume plant matter (del Hoyo et al. 1992) such as seeds, roots and tubers (del Hoyo et al. 1992) and the vegetative parts of aquatic plants (Flint et al. 1984). Breeding site The nest is a scrape on the ground hidden amongst vegetation (del Hoyo et al. 1992) close to water (Madge and Burn 1988, Kear 2005) or placed further away in dwarf heath (Kear 2005).
Butcher, G. S.; Niven, D. K. 2007. Combining data from the Christmas bird count and the breeding bird survey to determine the continental status and trends of North American birds.
Collinson, M.; Parkin, D. T.; Knox, A. G.; Sangster, G.; Helbig, A.J. 2006. Species limits within the genus Melanitta, the scoters. British Birds 99: 183-201.
del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Delany, S.; Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Flint, V. E.; Boehme, R. L.; Kostin, Y. V.; Kuznetsov, A. A. 1984. A field guide to birds of the USSR. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.
Gorski, W.; Jakuczun, B.; Nitecki, C.; Petryna, A. 1977. Investigation of oil pollution on the Polish Baltic coast in 1974-1975. Przeglad Zoologiczny 21(1): 20-23.
Johnsgard, P. A. 1978. Ducks, geese and swans of the World. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London.
Kear, J. 2005. Ducks, geese and swans volume 2: species accounts (Cairina to Mergus). Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K.
Larsen, J. K.; Laubek, B. 2005. Disturbance effects of high-speed ferries on wintering sea ducks. Wildfowl 55: 99-116.
Madge, S.; Burn, H. 1988. Wildfowl. Christopher Helm, London.
Melville, D. S.; Shortridge, K. F. 2006. Migratory waterbirds and avian influenza in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway with particular reference to the 2003-2004 H5N1 outbreak. In: Boere, G.; Galbraith, C., Stroud, D. (ed.), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 432-438. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.
Nikolaeva, N. G.; Spiridonov, V. A.; Krasnov, Y. V. 2006. Existing and proposed marine protected areas and their relevance for seabird conservation: a case study in the Barents Sea region. In: Boere, G.; Galbraith, C., Stroud, D. (ed.), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 743-749. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.
Scott, D. A.; Rose, P. M. 1996. Atlas of Anatidae populations in Africa and western Eurasia. Wetlands International, Wageningen, Netherlands.
Sea Duck Joint Venture. 2003. Species status report.
Snow, D. W.; Perrins, C. M. 1998. The Birds of the Western Palearctic vol. 1: Non-Passerines. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Further web sources of information
Hear sounds for this species from xeno-canto, the community database of shared bird sounds from around the world.
Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Calvert, R., Ekstrom, J., Malpas, L., Taylor, J.
Bowman, T., Moores, N., Pihl, S.
BirdLife International (2013) Species factsheet: Melanitta americana. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 09/12/2013. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2013) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 09/12/2013.
This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.
To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife
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|Current IUCN Red List category||Near Threatened|
|Family||Anatidae (Ducks, geese and swans)|
|Species name author||(Swainson, 1832)|
|Population size||350000-560000 mature individuals|
|Distribution size (breeding/resident)||3,670,000 km2|
|Links to further information|
|- Additional Information on this species|