© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki. Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.

King Eider

Somateria spectabilis

  • Family: Waterfowl – Anatidae
  • Appearance: A diving duck slightly smaller than the more common Eider, with a shorter beak. Breeding males have distinctive plumage with pale fore-parts and dark rear parts. Females’ plumage an almost uniform yellowish brown with mottled markings, and a “smiling” appearance to the face.
  • Size: Length 55–63 cm, wingspan 87–100 cm, weight 1.5–2.1 kg.
  • Nest: On seashores, riverbanks and lakeshores in tundra-like areas, may be exposed or hidden in vegetation. Lined with feathers.
  • Breeding: Lays 4–5 eggs in June. Only females incubate, for 22–24 days. Ducklings learn to fly at 7–8 weeks. Several females and their broods often form large flocks where all the females watch over all the young birds.
  • Distribution: Breeds on arctic shores in NE Russia and Siberia. Seen in Finland occasionally on migration.
  • Migration: May be observed in Finland at any time of year, but most often seen in April-May. Mainly winters in the Barents Sea from Northern Norway to Novaya Zemlya.
  • Diet: Crustaceans, molluscs, echinoderms.
  • Calls: Males’ breeding call heard in spring “hurlurlurlurlu” not unlike call of Black Grouse.

Breeding male King Eiders are mainly white in their fore-parts with dark rear parts. An oval-shaped white patch is prominent on top of their black wings, and they have another white patch on their underparts behind their feet. Two small, black triangular sail-like features stick up from their backs. Their heads have pearly grey colouring on their napes and caps. Their upper bills have a pale orange shield with black edges. Together with their small white-tipped dark red bills and their fluffed up neck plumage this gives their heads a square-like appearance. Their cheeks have green markings and their breasts are pale pink in colouring. After breeding males moult in summer they become darker and their orange bill shields shrink.

Females and immature King Eiders are a fairly uniform mottled brown in colouring, best distinguished from Eiders by their smaller bills and the shorter and more rounded feathery covering on the sides of their bills. Females and immature birds have greenish grey beaks with edges shaped to give them an apparently smiling expression. Males have orange legs while females’ legs are greenish. King Eiders’ irises are yellow.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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