On Friday I gave you this skull to identify:
It was pretty clear that it’s from a modern animal with a duck-like bill, so either a Platypus or a member of the Anatidae (the family containing ducks, geese and swans).
There are about 140 species within the Anatidae, so narrowing it down to species was the challenge. For me the main features that help identify this duck from all the other species were the concave profile and the width to length relationship of the bill, the shape of the lacrimal bones (the bits in front of the eyes) – with the supraorbital processes bordering the salt glands, and the shape of the palate – with its mid-point deflection and flare.
It seems that some of you spotted some of these features too, since henstridgesj, miekeroth and Barbara Powell came to very similar conclusions. This skull looks like it belonged to a Common Scoter Melanitta nigra (Linnaeus, 1758) and a female Common Scoter at that, since the males have a much more inflated bill than this specimen.
Common Scoters are sea ducks that dive for small crustaceans, molluscs and sometimes fish. They are migratory birds and although there only a few hundred breeding the UK, there are larger flocks of visiting birds over the winter, although they’re hard to spot since they are usually a fair distance out to sea for much of the time.