"King Eider"
(Somateria spectabillis)

Photograph by

Ian Gereg
Photograph by

Ian Gereg

King Eiders are a diving sea duck. They dive down from the surface of the water, propelling themselves downward and then back up with thier wings...literally flying underwater. They favor rocky shores and reefs.

In its breeding plumage, the male of this chunky sea duck is spectacular. It appears black above and behind, and white in front, with a large blue-gray cap, greenish cheeks, and a large orange knob at the base of the bill.

King Eiders stays farther north than Common Eider and so is only occasionally seen. It stays in large flocks duing winter.

Size: 23"

Male: Orange shield over base of bill; black back and flanks; white breast.

Female: Brown duck with a Roman nose similar to that of Common Eider but frontal lobes of bill shorter and more rounded; otherwise hard to distinguish.

Nest: Nest of feathers and down is placed on the ground near water, but can be some distance away. Young tended by female but find own food. 1 brood per year. After hatching, broods merge and "nurseries" of up to 100 ducklings are attended by several females. First flight at 30-50 days.

Eggs: 4-7; olive-buff

Incubation: 22-24 days by female.

Fledging: up to 50 days; precocial

Food: Dives as deep as 200 feet underwater for mollusks, crustaceans, sea urchins, starfish. Also eats algae, eelgrass, sedges, and aquatic insects.

Voice: Female gives hollow-sounding notes. Female makes low kuck or kwack; also buttural croaking, gag, gag, gag. Male makes cooing sounds. During courtship male makes soft dovelike cooing in threes, urrr-urrr-URR!

Habitat: Summers on tundra, winters along subarctic coast.

In Flight: In flight it appears mostly black adn white with a black back and large white wing patches. Often fly in big flocks abreast, not one behind the other.

Breeding: Monogamous. Solitary nester.

"Bird Wonderland"


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