Steller's EiderPolysticta stelleri
- ORDER: Anseriformes
- FAMILY: Anatidae
A little-known but spectacular seaduck of the High Arctic, the Steller’s Eider is smaller and less oceangoing than the three other eider species. Males are rich orange-buff below with bold black-and-white patterns on the head and wings. For much of the year Steller's Eiders forage rather like a dabbling duck on worms, snails, crustaceans, seeds, and insect larvae—the heavy, broad bill is a hint to this foraging style. Outside the breeding season, Steller’s travel and feed in flocks, often diving synchronously when foraging, a stunning sight.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Seeing Steller’s Eiders involves visiting the Arctic, to places such as the village of Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow), Alaska, where this is the most common nesting duck. Small numbers also pass St. Lawrence Island, and can usually be seen from the beach at Gambell in spring. Although they are numerous in winter a little farther south, along the Alaskan Peninsula and in the Aleutian Islands, these places are more difficult to reach.
- Eider Menor (Spanish)
- Eider de Steller (French)
- Cool Facts
- Steller’s Eider is named for German naturalist and explorer Georg Wilhelm Steller, who collected the first specimens near Kamchatka, Russia, in 1740–1741 (and for whom the Steller's Jay of western North America is also named).
- At Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow), Alaska, breeding success for Steller’s Eiders corresponds with the abundance of brown lemmings: when lemmings are abundant, Steller’s Eiders produce more young. This may be because Pomarine Jaegers, which are one of the arctic's most predatory birds, spend less time raiding Steller's Eider nests when there are lots of lemmings to eat.
- After the breeding season, Steller’s Eiders gather at two large lagoon systems, Nelson Lagoon and Izembek Lagoon, on the Alaska Peninsula, in order to molt their flight feathers before moving to their wintering grounds. Scientists call this a “molt migration.”
- Steller’s Eiders are quite different from Common, King, and Spectacled Eiders, all of which are in the genus Somateria, from the ancient Greek for "wooly bodied." Steller’s Eider is alone in its genus, Polysticta, derived from ancient Greek for “many-spotted.”
- Steller’s Eiders spend the winter in large flocks. Members of these flocks dive synchronously and may create a spray as they dive and then surface in unison.
- The oldest recorded Steller’s Eider was a female at least 23 years old. She was banded in Alaska in 1975 and found in Russia in 1997.