Split from Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca following Collinson, M., David T. Parkin, Alan G. Knox, George Sangster and Andreas J. Helbig. Species limits within the genus Melanitta, the scoters. British Birds Vol. 99: 183-201.
wherein treated as polytypic with two subspecies: deglandi (American White-winged Scoter) and stejnegeri (Asian White-winged Scoter). The latter breeds in northeastern Russia, while the former has been recorded on several occasions in the Kommander Islands (Russia). Hence both taxa are on the Oriental list.