King Eider

King Eider
King Eider Female

Male King Eiders are large ducks that are often easily identifiable because of their multi-colored heads and distinct orange knob with a black outline above their short red bills.

Their crown and nape are pale-blue, but their face is greenish. Their chests are white, and their wings, bellies, and back are black. They have white patches on their wings and on the base of the tail.

Female King Eiders, or Queen Eiders, as they’re commonly called, are brown in color all around. The feathers on her back and flanks have distinct, intricate chevron patterns, while the nape and chest have fine streaky lines. Her bill is black, and her cheek and neck are plain brown.

Juveniles are dark brown like the females but have a white chest and orange bill like the males.

  • Somateria spectabilis
  • Length: 18 – 25 in (46 – 64 cm)
  • Weight: 59.2 oz (1678 g)
  • Wingspan: 35 – 40 in (89 – 102 cm)


King Eiders breed in coastal northern Canada before migrating for winter to the south coast of Alaska and the east coast of Canada, and the coasts of northeastern US states.

Habitat And Diet

You can find King Eiders, usually near water and in barren tundra habitats, and they prefer rocky coasts and the open seas. They will usually mix with other wintering birds in coastal waters and can form flocks exceeding 100,000 birds. During the breeding season, they are seen in and around freshwater lakes and ponds.

When in the open sea, King Eiders dive deeply, reaching the bottom to feed off on the organisms they find there. They may also pick off prey that are on the underside of sea ice. When in lakes and ponds, they usually stay on the surface of the water, straining the water for mollusks, crustaceans, aquatic insects, and algae.

King Eider Calls:

Male King eider

Female King Eider


Nests of King Eiders are built by the female on the ground near water. They are usually “scrape nests”, or hollowed-out ground lined with grass and feathers from the female herself. She lays two to seven eggs that she incubates for twenty-two to twenty-three days. 

Fun Fact:

Spring creates an awe-inspiring migration of hundreds of thousands of King Eiders to their arctic nesting grounds.