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The king eider (pronounced //) (Somateria spectabilis) is a large sea duck that 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. They lay four to seven eggs in a scrape on the ground lined with grass and down.
This species is smaller than the common eider. The male is unmistakable with its mostly black body, buff-tinged white breast and multicoloured head. The head, nape and neck are a pale bluish grey. The cheek is pale green. The bill, separated rom the face by a thin black line, is red with a white nail and a large, distinctive yellow knob. Some tertials are curved up and form "spurs" along the back. The drake's call is a deep cooing, while hens give various croaks and quacks.
The female (occasionally colloquially referred to as 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 the common eider, and the feathering extension onto the bill is rounded, not triangular in shape.
An immature drake is typically all dark with a white breast and a yellow bill patch. Eclipse adult drakes are similar but lack the white breast.
|length||527–610 mm (20.75–24 in)|
|weight||1,670 g (3.68 lb)|
|wingspan||890 mm (35 in)|
|wing||264–283 mm (10.4–11.1 in)|
|tail||81–87.5 mm (3.19–3.44 in)|
|culmen||26–30 mm (1.0–1.2 in)|
|tarsus||46.5–50 mm (1.83–1.97 in)|
Range, Feeding and Breeding
The 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 United States, Scotland and Kamchatka. Breeding areas include the Arctic coastal tundra of the north coast of Alaska. This species dives for benthic invertebrates, such as crustaceans, polychaete worms, and molluscs, with mussels being a favoured food. Wintering birds can form large flocks on suitable coastal waters, with some flocks exceeding 100,000 birds.
Breeding is non-colonial, with the female incubating 4–7 eggs for 22 to 23 days. The young are raised collectively by the females.
The king eider is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.
The king eider, or qengallek[pronunciation?] in Yup'ik, is a regular source of fresh meat in the spring. They begin their migration past the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta in late April and are hunted in great numbers. In May, several hundred thousand king eiders pass Point Barrow in northern Alaska on their way to Alaskan and Canadian breeding grounds.
King eiders (male and female) in natural habitat in Alaska wildlife refuge
The gait of a king eider at Weltvogelpark Walsrode (Walsrode Bird Park)
- BirdLife International (2012). "Somateria spectabilis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Godfrey, W. Earl (1966). The Birds of Canada. Ottawa: National Museum of Canada. p. 77.
- "An Icelandic Birding Diary". March 2006.
- Sibley, David Allen (2000). The Sibley Guide to Birds. New York: Knopf. p. 95. ISBN 0-679-45122-6.
- Suydam, R. (2000). King Eider. Birds of North America (491).
- "King Eider project". University of Alaska Fairbanks. Archived from the original on 17 July 2012.
- Merkel, F.; Mosbech, A.; Jamieson, S.; Falk, K. (2007). "The diet of king eiders wintering in Nuuk, Southwest Greenland, with reference to sympatric wintering common eiders" (PDF). Polar Biology 30: 1593–1597. doi:10.1007/s00300-007-0321-z.
- Larned, W.W. (2007). "Steller's Eider spring migration surveys Southwest Alaska 2007" (PDF). Anchorage, Alaska: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Migratory Bird Management Office. p. 23.
- Suydam, R.S.; Dickson, D.L.; Fadely, J.B.; Quakenbush, L.T. (2000). "Population declines of King and Common Eiders of the Beaufort Sea". Condor 102: 219–222. JSTOR 1370428.
- Alaska Migratory Bird Calendar. US Fish and Wildlife Service. 2008.
Identification and ageing
- Chandler, R.J. (1987). "Identification and ageing of first-winter male King Eider". British Birds 80 (12): 626–627.
- Ellis, Pete (1994). "Ageing and sexing of King Eiders". British Birds 87 (1): 36–37.
- Dawson, Jane (1994). "Ageing and sexing of King Eiders". British Birds 87 (1): 37–40.
- Suddaby, D.; Shaw, K.D.; Ellis, P.M.; Brockie, Keith (1994). on behalf of the Rarities Committee. "King Eiders in Britain and Ireland in 1958-90: occurrences and ageing". British Birds 87 (9): 418–430.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Somateria spectabilis.|
|Wikispecies has information related to: Somateria spectabilis|
- King eider text, map and photographs at Oiseaux.net
- BirdLife species factsheet for Somateria spectabilis
- Somateria spectabilis on Avibase
- King eider videos, photos, and sounds at the Internet Bird Collection
- King eider photo gallery at VIREO (Drexel University)