Alaska Species Explorer


King Eider

Common Name: King Eider
Scientific Name: Somateria spectabilis

Circumpolar; arctic parts of coastal Canada, Alaska, Siberia, Russia, Scandinavia, Greenland. Winters as far north as the seas remain relatively ice-free.

Conservation Status:

Although not a species of concern, population counts have indicated a decline in numbers.  It is not confirmed whether this change in numbers represents population decline or change in distribution due to human disturbance.  Migration counts at Point Barrow and indicators in Rasmussen Lowlands, NWT suggest population declines of up to 55%.

Average Wingspan: 37 inches
Average Weight: 1,200-2,100 grams
Plumage Description:

Distinctly different male and female breeding plumage.  The male is black and white with a brightly colored head with light blue crown and nape, greenish face, and bright red-orange bill with large round orange knob outlined in black. The female is deep reddish brown, barred with black. Feathers on sides and flanks have black crescent or U-shaped black bars and dark centers.

Diet in the Wild:

Summer: Aquatic insect larvae, crustaceans, and plant matter. Winter: Mollusks, crustaceans, and echinoderms, as well as algae

Number of Eggs Per Clutch: 4-6 eggs
Incubation Period: 22-24 days

Nests in various tundra habitats, generally in low marshy areas. Winters in marine environments near coastlines or on open water shallow enough to allow for foraging at the bottom.

Threats in the Wild: Arctic fox, Jaegers, and Glaucous gulls, hunters
Did you know?:
  • King Eiders have the shortest incubation period of any species of waterfowl
  • Along with Common Eiders, King Eiders can also be found on the North East Coast
  • When they molt in late August they go flightless for 40 days
  • The King Eider can dive up to 85 ft deep while it forages on sea beds