King Eider

ID Info
Silhouette DucksDucks

King Eider

Somateria spectabilis
  • ORDER: Anseriformes
  • FAMILY: Anatidae
Basic Description

Among the waterfowl of the world, none is more ornately adorned than the male King Eider, its black-and-white plumage accented by a red-and-orange bill, pearl-blue crown, and spring-green cheek. Females are a rich marbling of rusty brown and black. King Eiders nest in tundra of the far north and winter largely at the edge of sea ice, foraging on shellfish. Their return to breeding areas in spring is spectacular: vast flocks pass by northern Alaska, a jaw-dropping phenomenon if you can get there to see it.

More ID Info
image of range map for King EiderRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

Find This Bird

If you can’t get to the high Arctic to see King Eiders in summer, look for them along rocky coasts in winter. Small numbers get as far south as southern Alaska, New England, and occasionally the Great Lakes. Finding one usually requires patient scanning through large flocks of Common Eiders (in the Northeast) or flocks of other sea ducks (in the Great Lakes). Be sure to study the subtle but noticeable differences between female Common and King Eiders to make sure you don’t miss one.

Other Names
  • Eider Real (Spanish)
  • Eider à tête grise (French)
  • Cool Facts