King Eider

King Eider

King Eider

King Eider MaleThe King Eider (Somateria spectabilis) is a large sea duck, which breeds along northern hemisphere Arctic coasts of northeast Europe, North America and Asia. The birds spend most of the year in coastal marine ecosystems at high latitudes, and migrate to Arctic tundra to breed in June and July.

King Eider winters in arctic and subarctic marine areas, most notably in the Bering Sea, the west coast of Greenland, eastern Canada and northern Norway. It also occurs annually off the northeastern USA, Scotland and Kamchatka. Wintering birds can form large flocks on suitable coastal waters, with some flocks exceeding 100,000 birds.

The King Eider is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.


Breeding / Nesting:

The nest is built on tundra close to the sea, and 4-7 eggs are laid in a scrape on the ground lined with grass and down.



This species is smaller than Common Eider.

The male is unmistakable with its black body, white breast and multicolored head. 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. The drake's call is a deep cooing.



King EidersThe female (occasionally colloquially referred to a "Queen Eider") 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.


Diet / Feeding

This species dives for benthic invertebrates like crustaceans, polychaete worms, and mollusks, with mussels being a favoured food.


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Relevant Resources

King Eider Male


Diet / Feeding:

King Eiders dive for crustaceans and mollusks, with mussels being a favored food.

Ducks generally feed on larvae and pupae often found under rocks, as well as aquatic animals, plant material, seeds, small fish, snails and crabs.

Feeding Ducks ...

We all enjoy ducks and many of us offer them food to encourage them to come over and stay around - and it works! Who doesn't like an easy meal!

However, the foods that we traditionally feed them at local ponds are utterly unsuitable for them and are likely to cause health problems down the road. Also, there may be local laws against feeding this species of bird - so it's best to check on that rather than facing consequences at a later stage.

Please note that feeding ducks and geese makes them dependent on humans for food, which can result in starvation and possibly death when those feedings stop. If you decide to feed them, please limit the quantity to make sure that they maintain their natural ability to forage for food themselves - providing, of course, that natural food sources are available.


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