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King Eider

Somateria spectabilis ORDER: ANSERIFORMES FAMILY: ANATIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A large duck of Arctic coastal waters, the King Eider is one of North America's most spectacular waterfowl species. Highly gregarious for most of the year, it forms prodigious flocks during spring migration, sometimes exceeding 10,000 individuals.

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At a GlanceHelp

Measurements
Both Sexes
Length
18.5–25.2 in
47–64 cm
Weight
42.3–74.1 oz
1200–2100 g
Other Names
  • Eider à tête grise, Eider remarquable (French)
  • Eider real (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The King Eider forages on sea beds up to 25 meters (82 ft) deep.
  • The female King Eider alone attends the nest. When an intruder is present, the female sits low on the nest with her head flattened on the ground. She sits tightly on the eggs and sometimes can be touched or picked up off of the nest.
  • The female King Eider does not feed very often during the 22-24 day incubation period. One female did not leave her nest for seven days before being flushed by an arctic fox.

Habitat


Ocean

Nests in various tundra habitats, generally in low marshy areas. Winters in marine environments near coastlines or on open water shallow enough to allow for foraging at the bottom.

Food


Insects

Aquatic insect larvae, crustaceans, and plant matter in summer. In winter, feeds on a wide variety of marine animals, including mollusks, crustaceans, and echinoderms, as well as algae.

Nesting

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
2–7 eggs
Egg Description
Olive or olive-buff.
Condition at Hatching
Covered in down and able to leave the nest soon after hatching.
Nest Description

A scrape on the ground, usually near water, lined with vegetation and down from the female.

Nest Placement

Ground

Behavior


Surface Dive

During the breeding season, feeds by tipping up, probing, or diving, depending on water depth. In winter, most commonly dives to sea floor to take prey.

Conservation

status via IUCN

Least Concern

Some evidence of possible recent population declines, especially in western North America. No specific conservation measures yet taken.

Credits

  • Suydam, R. S. 2000. King Eider (Somateria spectabilis). In The Birds of North America, No. 491 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.

Range Map Help

King Eider Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

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All About Birds blog, These 8 Unexpected Migration Routes Give You Reason to Go Birding in Summer, July 16, 2014.