King Eider

King Eider Identification

King Eider

A King Eider is a fun bird to see while bird watching. Below are some tips to help you identify King Eiders. We have also put together a list of fun King Eider t-shirts, King Eider bird patches, birdhouses, bird feeders, binoculars, stickers, and other fun bird-watching items.

About King Eiders

Commonly found breeding in the coasts of Northern Europe, Asia, and the Northern Hemisphere arctic is the King Eider (Somateria Spectabilis). It is a bird well adapted to living in frigid conditions.

Description and Identification

Deriving their names from their vibrant colors, King Eiders are strikingly beautiful birds.
Their large bodies are between 18.5 – 28 inches long, with a wingspan of 34 – 40 inches.
They are heavyset ducks with short, thick necks and large, rounded heads. Their bills are
short but extremely heavy. This species demonstrates a high degree of sexual dimorphism
in both size and color. Adult males have a large plate above the bill which creates a bulge
in the forehead, whereas females have a smooth, sloping transition between the forehead
and the bills. Males are pale on the head and neck with black on their bodies, along with a
large orange plate above their red bills. They have greenish faces and a crown that is tinged
with blue and gray. Adult females are rich rusty brown with intricate patterns of black,
whereas immatures are dark brown with a white chest.

King Eider Color Pattern

Male King Eiders are colorful birds with black backs, pale green, underbelly and chest, white cheeks a light blue head, and a pale pink bill that is surrounded with a reddish-orange plate.

The female is less colorful than her male counterpart. Her plumage is patterned cinnamon-brown feathers with black bars. Her bill is black and does not have a shield or plate on her face. Minus the sloping forehead, she has an uncanny resemblance to the Common Eider.

King Eider Size

King Eiders are large stocky diving sea ducks, its relative size for both sexes is:

  • Length: 18.5-25.2 in (47-64 cm)
  • Weight: 42.3-74.1 oz (1200-2100 g)
  • Wingspan: 86-102 cm (34-40 inches)

King Eider Behavior

  • Their thick and soft underbelly provides them with insulation from the cold ocean waters they dwell in.

King Eider Food

King Eiders’ diets involve marine and terrestrial life alike. When they are on land, they
mostly eat insects and plant matter by foraging in shallow freshwater environments; their
insect prey includes beetles, water bugs, caddisflies, stoneflies, blowflies, midges, bees,
wasps, and various insect larvae. Their range of marine prey is far vaster as they spend
most of their time at sea. The diet includes a variety of shellfish, crustaceans, sea urchins,
starfish, and algae, that they collect by diving into the undersides of sea ice. Other marine
prey includes various amphipods, bivalves, hermit crabs, shrimp, barnacles, sea snails, sea anemones, sea slugs, sea squirts, marine worms, fairy and tadpole shrimp, eelgrass, wigeon
grass, bur reeds, pendant grass, buttercups, and aquatic mosses of many species.

The King Eider is a diving bird; therefore, it dives for over 100 feet to search for its prey. During summer, it eats crustaceans, aquatic insect larvae, and plant matter. In the winter, it mostly eats echinoderms, mollusks, and crustaceans.

King Eider Habitat

King Eiders breed in the Arctic tundra, utilizing both dry and wet habitats. They tend to linger
close to water bodies, residing near interior lakes or ocean coasts alike. While the young are
raised in freshwater and saltwater environments, they all move to saltwater once they fledge.
Many North American populations gather in the western regions of the Beaufort Sea, where they
primarily feed off Russian waters around 10 miles from land. Migrations take them towards
areas marked by the southern edge of sea ice or large open-water areas to spend their
winters in. Some even travel to the Great Lakes like Lake Ontario. These ducks are known
to winter farther from land, and over deeper waters, than Common Eiders.

During their breeding season, the King Eider is found in the Tundra regions. In the winter, they tend to inhabit shallow coastal areas.

Range and Migration

King Eiders are large sea ducks that are found along the Arctic Circle in a circumpolar
fashion. These short- to medium-distance migratory birds breed along the Arctic coasts of
North America, Europe, and Asia during the months of June and July. Migrations for winter
occur in large flocks – sometimes exceeding 100,000 birds – as the North American
population flies south towards the Atlantic coasts of Canada and north-eastern America, and
the Pacific coasts of Alaska.

King Eider Life Cycle

The female King Eider lays 4 to 5 pale olive eggs in a grass-lined depression on the tundra. The male leaves the female bird to incubate the eggs for 22 to 24 days who will rarely leave the nest. Her camouflaged coloring allows her to blend into the surroundings to protect her eggs in the face of danger from prey. The young birds take flight after around 50 days after hatching.

King Eider Nesting

Both members of the pair look for potential nesting sites, but females make the final
selection. The nests are usually in a depression or cavity in the tundra landscape; these
sites must be near water and be concealed by low vegetation. These nests are not
immediately lined and expand with time as incubation begins. The nests are lined with
vegetation and the female’s own down feathers as the females begin to lay eggs. The
resulting scrape nest is approximately 10 inches across and capable of hosting 2 – 7 King
Eider eggs with ease.


Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes

At Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.

Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying King Eiders

The most common types of bird-watching binoculars for viewing King Eiders are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.

King Eider T-shirts

If you love the King Eiders you should purchase a Bird Watching Academy & Camp T-shirt. To help support bird conservation we donate 10 percent to bird conservation activities.

King Eider Iron On Patches

Kids, Youth, and Adults love to collect our Bird Watching Academy & Camp iron-on patches. Our bird-watching patches help you keep track of the birds you have seen and identified. You can also display the patches on our Bird Watching Academy & Camp banners.

The King Eider is a great iron-on patch to start your collection with. The patches are durable and can be sewn on or ironed on to just about anything.

King Eider Stickers

Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the King Eider. We sell a monthly subscription sticker pack. The sticker packs have 12 bird stickers. These sticker packs will help your kids learn new birds every month.

Bird Feeders for King Eiders

There are many types of bird feeders. Here are our favorite bird feeders for your backyard. We use all of these bird feeders currently. Kids will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. Using this collection of bird feeders will provide a wide variety and many types of birds.

Best Bird Houses for King Eiders

There are many types of birdhouses. Building a birdhouse is always fun but can be frustrating. These 4 birdhouses have become our favorites. Getting a birdhouse for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. We spent a little extra money on these birdhouses but they have been worth the higher price and look great.

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