Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca breed in Scandinavia and Russia, east to the River Yenisey and south to Kazakhstan, with isolated populations in the Caucasus; it winters in the Baltic Sea and coastal W Europe, with some in the Black and Caspian Seas (Carboneras & Kirwan 2014). It is currently listed as Endangered, because when last assessed it was considered to have undergone a very rapid population decline.
Globally, it has an extremely large range in the breeding season (>5 million km2) and a very large range in winter (>250,000 km2), and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criteria (B and D2). Its population size is also very large (c. 450,000 individuals; Wetlands International 2012), and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criteria (C and D1). Therefore, the only potentially relevant criterion is A, which relates to reductions in population size. Until recently, the population was thought to be declining very rapidly, based largely on a c. 60% reduction in the numbers counted wintering in the Baltic Sea between 1992–3 and 2007–9 (Skov et al. 2011), which exceeded the threshold for listing as Endangered under criterion A (at least a 50% decline over ten years or three generations, whichever is longer).
New data collated from across Europe for the European Red List of Birds (BirdLife International 2015) suggest that the species is no longer declining so steeply overall (although several national populations are still declining, and none are increasing). A combination of official data reported by 27 EU Member States to the European Commission under Article 12 of the EU Birds Directive and comparable data from other European countries, provided by BirdLife Partners and other leading national ornithologists, suggests that the European wintering population has probably declined overall by only 30–49% over the last three generations (22.5 years, based on a generation length estimated by BirdLife to be 7.5 years). Consequently, the species is now classified as Vulnerable at European level (BirdLife International 2015).
Europe holds virtually the entire global population in winter, so this trend is globally significant. Now that rate of decline in Europe appears to have slowed, the information available implies that globally the species is not declining sufficiently rapidly to be listed as Endangered, and should be reclassified as Vulnerable.
Comments on this proposal are welcome, along with any data regarding the recent trend of its core breeding population in Russia, along with any additional information about the threats currently affecting this species across its range.
BirdLife International (2015) European Red List of Birds. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities. http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/info/euroredlist
Carboneras, C. & Kirwan, G.M. (2014). Velvet Scoter (Melanitta fusca). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.) (2014). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. www.hbw.com
Skov, H. et al. (2011) Waterbird populations and pressures in the Baltic Sea (Vol. 550). Nordic Council of Ministers.
Wetlands International (2012) Waterbird Population Estimates: 5th edition. wpe.wetlands.org