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King Eider - BirdForum Opus

Photo © by gus guthrie
Ythan Estuary. Aberdeenshire, May 2018
Somateria spectabilis


Photo © by the late Jim Wood
Batsford, Norway, March 2009

47–63 cm; (18-24¼ in)
Adult Male: Breeding:

  • Body almost totally black or blackish
  • White mantle
  • Pinkish-white breast
  • Grey head with orange forehead
  • Coral-pink bill
  • White wing bars show in flight

Similar Species

Female, immature and eclipse male similar to female Common Eider and Steller's Eider


Breeds in coastal Alaska and the high Arctic of Canada's Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, Quebec to coastal Greenland and Iceland. Winters in a line through southern Canada to the Great Lakes and the St Lawrence River, and coastal US. Occasionally to mid-Atlantic United States.

In the Western Palearctic breeds only in the far north on the islands of Svalbard, Novaya Zemlya and Ostrov Kolguyev, and on the mainland of coastal Arctic Russia from the Kanin Peninsula eastwards. Occasionally breeds south of main range and sometimes interbreeds with Common Eider.

In winter occurs from the White Sea west to the north Scandinavia coast and around coasts of Iceland. Chicks have been recorded in Iceland although they were considered to be probable hybrids.

Rare but regular in northern Scotland in very small numbers with long-staying and returning individuals (c.170 records). Also regularly recorded in small numbers in the southern Baltic. Occasional elsewhere in Britain, vagrant over most of Northern Europe and south to Spain, Italy and the Azores.


This is a monotypic species[1].


Breeds on tundra, winters at sea normally in Arctic regions and not confined to inshore waters.


Vagrants to the south of usual range usually seen inshore in the company of Common Eider.


Dives for crustaceans, molluscs and starfish.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Collins Pocket Guide to British Birds 1966
  3. Collins Field Guide 5th Edition
  4. Collins Bird Guide ISBN 0 00 219728 6
  5. BTO BirdFacts
  6. eBird, https://ebird.org/species

Recommended Citation

External Links

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