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King Eider Somateria spectabilis


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King Eider, male at Central Park Zoo
credit: Tony Hisgett/CCSA

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Family: Anatidae, Ducks and Geese view all from this family

Description ADULT MALE Spectacular, the rather oversized-looking blue head bearing a red bill and large orange basal knob. Black lines demarcate areas of color on head. Breast is pinkish orange and rest of body is mainly black, with a white patch on side of vent, and a horizontal white line on flanks. Raised, sail-like scapulars can be discerned at close range. In flight, note the white wing coverts, above and below. ADULT FEMALE Warm brown, marbled plumage and dark gray bill. In flight, note the pale underwing coverts. JUVENILE Similar to adult female.

Dimensions Length: 18-25" (46-64 cm)

Habitat Locally common, nesting beside coastal tundra pools in Canadian Arctic. Most winter in coastal waters of North Atlantic seaboard.

Observation Tips Easiest to see on coasts in winter.

Range Western Canada, Eastern Canada, Southeast, Alaska, Mid-Atlantic, California, New England

Voice Male utters a purring sound.

Discussion Distinctive sea duck that dives regularly and for extended periods in search of marine invertebrates. Adult male in summer is unmistakable, but female could be confused with female Common Eider: note King Eider's smaller size, more dainty bill and smaller head, and more prominent pale line running back from eye, and pale eye surround. Extremely gregarious during migration and in winter.