- ORDER: Anseriformes
- FAMILY: Anatidae
Adult male Spectacled Eiders are large ducks with yellow-orange bills and brilliant white “goggles” outlined in black. Females and immatures are an understated brown with pale brown eye patches. These spectacular birds breed on Alaskan and Russian tundra, where they dabble in shallow water for insects and plant seeds. Then they disappear into the middle of the Bering Sea to spend a dark winter floating among gaps in the sea ice, diving deep underwater for clams and other marine invertebrates.More ID Info
Find This Bird
To see a Spectacled Eider requires traveling to Alaska or Russia. In spring and fall, Alaska (specifically Uqtiagvik, formerly Barrow), can be a reliable place to see them on the tundra just outside of town. In summer, you may see females with young. Nome has an occasional sighting, and nearby St. Lawrence Island is quite reliable, both in spring and fall. Here, the eiders pass by offshore (with King, Common, and Steller’s Eiders), so a spotting scope is necessary in most cases.
- Éider de Anteojos (Spanish)
- Eider à lunettes (French)
- Cool Facts
- During summer, Spectacled Eiders "dabble" for food in shallow water like a Mallard. Out at sea in the winter, they transform into deep-sea divers, swimming as far as 250 feet underwater to pull clams and other invertebrates off the seafloor.
- Until the 1990s, no one knew where Spectacled Eiders went to molt or where they spent the winter. Scientists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service attached satellite transmitters and tracked the birds by aircraft. They found them congregating in ice-free areas of the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas.
- Spectacled Eiders, unlike some waterfowl, are not very territorial, and conflicts between males are uncommon. Conflicts with several species of geese, including Cackling Geese and Emperor Geese, may occur when the eiders attempt to nest on small islands where the geese also nest.
- The oldest Spectacled Eider was at least 18 years old when she was recaptured and released during a banding operation in Alaska.