© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki, M. & W. von Wright: Svenska fåglar (Kansalliskirjasto, The National Library of Finland). Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.

Steller's Eider

Polysticta stelleri

  • Family: Waterfowl – Anatidae
  • Appearance: A diving duck, similar in size to Goldeneye. Male brightly coloured, female dark brown with paler patterning. Bill even in thickness, crown flattened in profile with sharp angles in front and behind. Blue wing panel lined with broad white streaks.
  • Size: Length 42–48 cm, wingspan 68–77 cm, weight 0.4–1 kg, on average 860 g.
  • Nest: Low, made of grass, lined with down, among vegetation or on open ground.
  • Breeding: 5–10 eggs laid in June, incubated by female. Ducklings leave the nest soon after hatching and learn to find food for themselves, though they stay together as a brood with their mother for some time.
  • Distribution: Breeds on the tundra of Siberia. Passage migrant in Finland, mainly in winter and spring.
  • Migration: Scarce winter visitor in northern waters of the Baltic Sea. Migration back to breeding areas peaks in May. May be seen in Finland at any time of year.
  • Diet: Invertebrates.
  • Calls: Usually silent.
  • Endangerment: In Finland winter visitors extremely endangered. European red list status Least concern, globally Vulnerable.

Does not resemble the much more Common Eider very closely. In appearance more like a dabbling duck than a diving duck. Males easy to identify in colourful breeding plumage, head mainly white with black markings around eyes, and a black bib that extends onto a neck ring connected to black colouring on back. Green markings visible on head and back of neck. White stripes on neck below black neck ring.

Males in breeding plumage have pale copper brown underparts and black vents and tails. A distinctive black spot can often be seen on their flanks. Around midsummer males moult, losing their breeding plumage and becoming more uniform dark brown in colouring with a white patch on the front of the belly. Steller’s Eiders have cobalt blue wing panels lined on either side with broad white stripes. On juvenile birds these white stripes are only very narrow. Females and juveniles are a fairly uniform mottled dark brown in colouring. Steller’s Eiders’ legs are bluish grey (males) or dark greenish (females). Their bills are bluish grey and their irises are dark brown.

Steller’s Eiders are often seen in dense flocks in which individuals follow each other closely in behaviour.

Other species from the same family

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