King Eider

The King Eider (Somateria spectabilis) is a large sea duck which breeds along the arctic coasts of northeast Europe, North America and Asia. The lined nest is built on tundra close to the sea, and 4-6 eggs are laid.

It winters somewhat further south in winter to eastern Canada and Norway, where it can form large flocks on suitable coastal waters, and it is annual off the northeastern USA, Scotland and Kamchatka. This species dives for crustaceans and mollusks, with mussels being a favored food.

This species is smaller than Common Eider. The male is unmistakable with its black body, white breast and multicolored head. The drake’s call is a deep cooing.

The female is a brown bird, but can still be readily distinguished from all ducks except other eider species on size and structure. The head is shorter than in Common Eider, and the feathering extension onto the bill is rounded, not triangular in shape.

Immature drakes are typically all dark with a white breast and a yellow bill patch. Eclipse adult drakes are similar but lack the white breast.