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The scoters are stocky seaducks in the genus Melanitta. The drakes are mostly black and have swollen bills. Females are brown.

They breed in the far north of Europe, Asia and North America, and winter further south in temperate zones of those continents. They form large flocks on suitable coastal waters. These are tightly packed, and the birds tend to take off together.

Their lined nests are built on the ground close to the sea, lakes or rivers, in woodland or tundra. These species dive for crustaceans and molluscs.

There are five species, grouped into two subgenera:

The presumed fossil "scoter" Melanitta ceruttii which lived in Californiamarker during the Late Pliocene is now placed in the genus Histrionicus.

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