Sea ducks are members of the subfamily Mergini that are different from other diving ducks in that they spend all the winter out at sea and only venture near land to breed.
They are a large proportion of the ducks in North America, but they are not spotted as often or as well known due to the fact they spend the majority of their time out at sea in winter and often breed in the Arctic north of Canada and Alaska.
Sea ducks have thick feathers and warm the blood from their legs before it reenters their bodies, which helps them stay alive in their cold environment.
Diving ducks’ legs are placed further back to help them swim and dive, and so they do not usually walk on land as dabbling ducks do. They eat fish, aquatic plants, and shellfish.
You can also find out more about ducks and their calls or check out which ducks are in your state or province from the main menu.
15 Types Of Sea Ducks
1. Hooded Merganser
The Hooded Merganser is the second smallest species of Merganser and the only Merganser that lives entirely in North America.
Male Hooded Mergansers are striking ducks because of the crests on their head that they can raise or lower, which then changes the shape of their head and the pattern of the crest. When open, the crests are huge white patches, but when closed, they are a thick white stripe.
Apart from the white crests, their heads are black, and they have golden yellow eyes. Their bodies are black, except for their cinnamon-colored flanks and white chests. They have two black bars on their chests, and their lower backs have white stripes.
Females have the same crest, but theirs is reddish-brown. Their bodies are brownish-gray all over, lighter on the bottom and darker on top. Their eyes are somewhat duller than the males. Juveniles have brownish crests, black top half, and brownish-gray on their bottom half.
- Lophodytes cucullatus
- Length: 16 – 19 in (41 – 48 cm)
- Weight: 32.09 oz (909 g)
- Wingspan: 24 – 26 in (61 – 66 cm)
Hooded Mergansers live in eastern US states all year, but those in eastern Canada migrate for winter. They also spend all year in southwestern Canada. They can be spotted during migration in the Midwest and in winter in southern US states and the West Coast.
You can find Hooded Mergansers in freshwater lakes, ponds, and slow-moving rivers. They prefer to breed in small, forested ponds and estuaries with lots of aquatic vegetation. During migration, they visit a wide range of habitats, like open water, coastal bays, and tidal creeks. In winter, they are found in brackish swamps, saltwater bays, and inlets.
Hooded Mergansers forage by diving underwater. They catch their prey with their serrated and hooked bill. They will eat aquatic insects, fish, and crustaceans, particularly crayfish. In forested regions, they may eat snails, frogs, aquatic plants, and seeds.
Hooded Merganser Call: They are usually silent, but male Hooded Mergansers will make a frog-like croak during courtship, and females make a flight call.
Male Hooded Merganser call
Female Hooded Merganser call
Nests of Hooded Mergansers are often found in tree cavities that are about ten to twenty feet above the ground. They are usually beside or close to a water source and lined only with down feathers. Females lay seven to fifteen eggs and will incubate them all at the same time after the last egg has been laid. The incubation period usually takes just over thirty days.
Within twenty-four hours after hatching, the young jump to the ground from the nest and head to the closest water source. They can swim on their own and are able to find their own food. The female will still tend to them and lead them to areas with abundant food but only for a few more weeks.
Fun Fact: Hooded Mergansers are able to see underwater, which helps them when they forage for food.
2. Common Merganser
Male Common Mergansers are simple-patterned birds but striking nonetheless. They have black heads with a glossy green sheen, dark eyes, bright-red, long, serrated bills, white bodies, and black backs. While they do have a crest, it’s not often visible.
Females have a more prominent reddish-brown crest. They have the same red, serrated bill as the males. They also have a white chin patch, and their breast and bellies are white, their backs are gray. Juveniles resemble females.
- Mergus merganser
- Length: 22 – 27 in (56 – 69 cm)
- Weight: 60.8 oz (1723 g)
- Wingspan: 31 – 37 in (79 – 94 cm)
Common Mergansers breed in Canada and migrate to the US. Some remain all year in northeastern and northwestern US states.
You can find Common Mergansers in freshwater lakes and ponds. They are also found in small rivers and shallow shorelines and even sitting on rocks in the middle of a stream. While they prefer freshwater habitats, they sometimes visit saltwater regions too, like coastal estuaries and harbors.
Common Mergansers are diving ducks, and they love to eat fish, particularly the adults. Their serrated bills make it easy for them to capture and hold these fish as well as mussels, crustaceans, and other aquatic creatures. Gulls often follow them when hunting to steal the fish from them.
Common Merganser Calls: They are usually fairly quiet, but Male Common Mergansers give alarm calls, and females make a series of grunting calls to their young.
Male Common Merganser call
Female Common Merganser call
Nests of Common Mergansers are usually found in a tree cavity in mature forests. They often use abandoned tree holes and line them with down feathers. They also use nest boxes where available. If there are no tree cavities, they use crevices on cliffsides.
Females lay six to seventeen eggs and have been known to lay eggs in other nests of the same species. They incubate these eggs for around thirty days. When the young hatch, they immediately head for the water to feed themselves. The female may assist them in finding food, but otherwise, they fend for themselves.
Fun Fact: Common Mergansers are also called “sawbills,” “fish ducks,” or “goosanders.”
3. Common Goldeneye
Common Goldeneye males have green heads that are iridescent and can look almost black. They have a white spot under their yellow eyes. They have white bodies and sides and black backs.
Female Common Goldeneyes are grayish-brown with brown heads. Both males and females have black bills, but females have a yellow tip.
- Bucephala clangula
- Length: 15.8 – 20.1 in (40 – 51 cm)
- Weight: 21.2 – 45.9 oz (600 – 1300 g)
- Wingspan: 30.3 – 32.7 in (77 – 83 cm)
Common Goldeneyes breed in Canada and Alaska in summer and migrate late to the lower 48 for winter.
You can find Common Goldeneyes in boreal forest lakes during the breeding season and in coastal areas in winter. Common Goldeneyes are diving ducks that feed on crabs, shrimp, crayfish, fish, fish eggs, and insects.
Common Goldeneye Calls: They are quiet ducks, but male Common Goldeneyes make soft calls, and females make harsh alarm calls.
Common Goldeneye Male
Common Goldeneye Alarm call
Nests of Common Goldeneye are in holes in trees, and they use whatever is in there, plus some plucked-down feathers for the nesting material. They lay up to nine eggs which take around thirty days to hatch.
Fun Fact: Common Goldeneyes can fly at speeds of over 40 miles per hour.
4. Red-breasted Merganser
Breeding Male Red-breasted Mergansers are certainly noticeable ducks. Their black, glossy green, ragged, and spiky crests, dark red eyes, and long, serrated orange bills certainly make them stand out among other ducks. They also have a white neck collar, mottled reddish-brown breast, black and white back, and gray flanks.
Females and non-breeding males have reddish-brown spiky crests, red eyes, long, red bills, white throats, and gray bodies.
- Mergus serrator
- Length: 16 – 26 in (41 – 66 cm)
- Weight: 47.61 oz (1349 g)
- Wingspan: 31 – 35 in (79 – 89 cm)
Red-breasted Mergansers breed in Canada, except in the southwest, before migrating to the coasts of the US and Canada. They can be spotted during migration in southwestern Canada and all US states.
You can find Red-breasted Mergansers in tundra ponds, freshwater lakes and rivers, and brackish and saltwater wetlands, usually near the coast during the breeding season. In winter, they may also be found in the ocean.
Red-breasted mergansers normally dive when foraging for food and will pursue their prey underwater until they catch them. They will occasionally cooperate with other groups and herd schools of fish into shallow waters to make them easier to catch. Aside from fish, they also eat crustaceans, insects, and amphibians.
Red-breasted Merganser call: They are quiet birds, but they make calls during courtship or when alarmed.
Male Red-breasted Merganser
Female Red-breasted Merganser
Nests of Red-breasted Mergansers are often found on the ground, in a shallow depression, near the water. Females usually line them with plants and down feathers. Females lay five to sixteen eggs but may lay them in other females’ nests. The incubation period may run from twenty-nine to thirty-five days and is mostly done by the female.
Fun Fact: Red-breasted Mergansers don’t acquire their breeding feathers until they are two years old.
5. Surf Scoter
Male Surf Scoters are medium-sized birds that are sometimes called “old skunk-head coot” because of the distinct white patches on their forehead and nape that stand out against their black, velvety feathers.
Aside from these distinctive features, male surf scoters also have a large orange bill with white, red, and yellow patterns. At the base of the bill is a large, black spot. Their eyes are white.
Female Surf Scoters are mostly dark gray, but they have the white patch at the base of their bill and near the back of their eyes. They have the same bill as the male, except that theirs is smaller and dark gray.
Juveniles are brownish in color, have black eyes, and have the same coloring and shape of the bill as the males.
- Melanitta perspicillata
- Length: 17 – 21 in (43 – 53 cm)
- Weight: 35.27 oz (1000 g)
- Wingspan: 30 – 36 in (76 – 91 cm)
Surf Scoters breed in northern Canada and Alaska before migrating to the US coasts and Canadian coast.
You can find Surf Scoters in forests near freshwater lakes during the breeding season. During their molting season, they prefer shallow bays, inlets, and estuaries, places that have a good source of food and lesser threats of predation. But, they are most likely on the ocean during winter.
Surf Scoters mostly get their food by diving underwater. They also adapt their foraging attempts depending on the abundance of food. For instance, they will feed on Pacific Herring eggs during their spawning since there is less effort but more food supply. During the breeding period, they will find freshwater invertebrates and crustaceans.
Surf Scoter calls:
Nests of Surf Scoters are usually well-concealed, built on the ground, under thick brush or low tree branches, and not always near water. The female digs a bowl-shaped depression on the ground and lines it with grass and down feathers then lays around five to eight eggs which she incubates for about a month. In dense breeding areas, broods may get mixed up.
Fun Fact: Gulls often try to steal the prey that Surf Scoters catch from diving. That’s why flocks frequently make synchronized dives and surfacing to make it difficult for other birds to steal from them.
6. Long-tailed Duck
The Long-tailed Duck is a small diving duck that has rather obvious slender, long and black tail feathers, hence the name. What’s interesting about the Long-Tailed Duck is that its coloring reverses between breeding (summer) and non-breeding (winter) seasons.
Adult non-breeding males have white crowns, foreheads, necks, backs, sides, and bellies. They have a gray mask and a dark cheek patch, a pink band across their black bill, and black breasts and wings with white shoulder blades. Their tails are long and black.
Their coloring reverses during the breeding season or in summer. Everything that was white is now dark-colored. Their crown, foreheads, necks, backs, sides, and bellies are now dark. Their cheek patch is now white, and the band on their dark bill is now gray.
Adult non-breeding females have dark crowns, white heads with a dark patch on the cheek, and gray bills. They have white necks and bellies. They have brown throats, backs, wings, and a relatively shorter tail. Like the males, their coloring reverses during the breeding season. They become browner overall but with a white patch around the eye and neck.
Juveniles resemble adult non-breeding females, particularly in coloring and with a shorter tail. But they have a darker patch on the cheek and a yellow-orange band on the gray bill like the adult males.
- Clangula hyemalis
- Length: 15 – 22 in (38 – 56 cm)
- Weight: 31.74 oz (900 g)
- Wingspan: 26 – 31 in (66 – 79 cm)
Long-tailed Ducks breed in the far north of Canada and Alaska and across northern Europe and northern Asia. In winter, they migrate south to the US, and those in Europe and Asia move south in these regions.
You can find Long-Tailed Ducks in many coastal water habitats. They are often in bays, harbors, fjords, estuaries, straits, and mudflats. During the breeding season, you can find them along ocean coasts and large freshwater lakes. They are known to join large flocks in areas with extensive sea ice.
Long-tailed Ducks usually dive for mollusks, crustaceans, and small fish in the oceans during winter. They are known to dive as deep as 200 feet to reach zooplankton that is usually at the bottom of water columns. They use their wings to propel them through the water. On the tundra, during summer, they mostly eat insects, fish eggs, and plants.
Long-tailed Duck calls:
Male Long-tailed Duck
Female Long-tailed Duck
Nests of Long-tailed Ducks are usually shallow depressions on the ground made by females. They are grouped together in small, tight clusters with other females’ nests. The first egg is covered with a layer of grasses, and with the addition of a second egg, the females add their own down to the nest.
Females can lay anywhere from six to nine eggs. They alone incubate the eggs for up to twenty-nine days. Males leave for their post-breeding molting site. The young are able to feed when they hatch.
Fun Fact: The Long-tailed Duck used to be known as “oldsquaw.”
7. Common Eider
Common Eiders are large sea ducks with sloping foreheads. Breeding males generally have white cheeks and backs, black caps, sides, and bellies, and pistachio-colored napes (back of the neck).
Females are reddish-brown all-over with black barring on their breasts, backs, and wings. Juveniles and non-breeding males are chocolate brown with varying degrees of white coloring on their breasts and backs.
- Somateria mollisima
- Length: 23 – 27 in (58 – 69 cm)
- Weight: 78.4 oz (2222 g)
- Wingspan: 35 – 42 in (89 – 107 cm)
Common Eiders have six subspecies, four of which breed in North America and have slight differences between them.
Common Eiders breed in Canada and Alaska and parts of northern Europe and Asia. Some remain in those areas in winter all year, but others migrate south.
You can find Common Eiders in marine or saltwater habitats that are near rocky coastlines. During the breeding season, you can find them in large colonies on coastal islands, islets, and shorelines with vegetation, shrubs, and stunted trees.
In winter, they settle in locations with rocky seafloors to easily forage for mollusks.
Common Eiders mainly eat mollusks, crustaceans, marine worms, and fish eggs. They forage at low tides and pry these mussels from rocks underwater with their strong, chisel-like bills.
They are able to swallow the mussels whole despite their shells. When eating crabs, they only eat the bodies and remove all of their legs and claws prior to eating.
Common Eider calls:
Male Common Eider
Female Common Eider
Nests of Common Eiders are made by the females by creating a depression on the ground with their feet and belly. They usually choose a site that’s sheltered and mostly used in previous years.
They lay three to eight eggs and line the nest with their own down after laying the third egg. When they have to leave the nest, they cover the eggs with the down. The females incubate the eggs for about twenty-four to twenty-six days, with the males staying close for protection.
Fun Fact: The Common Eider is also called St. Cuthbert’s Duck or Cuddy’s Duck because they were one of the first birds ever to gain protection laws as established by Saint Cuthbert in the year 676.
8. White-winged Scoter
White-winged Scoters are the largest of the North American Scoters. They’re easily distinguishable from the other three because of their white wing patch since the other two Scoters have totally black wings.
Male White-winged Scoters also have the distinct white, reverse comma marking around the eye, earning them the nickname “Viking Horn.” Their orange-tipped bill is short and less bulbous than other Scoters, but it does have a large, dark knob at its base. Their bodies are mostly black.
Female and Juvenile White-winged Scoters are similar. They are both dark brown with white patches in front and behind their eyes. They have dark gray bills with a smaller knob at the base.
- Melanitta deglandi
- Length: 19 – 24 in (48 – 61 cm)
- Weight: 62.4 oz (1768 g)
- Wingspan: 33 – 41 in (84 – 104 cm)
White-winged Scoters breed in western Canada and Alaska before migrating for winter to the US and Canadian coasts.
You can find White-winged Scoters in northern forests near freshwater lakes and wetlands during their breeding season. During the winter, they prefer the open ocean and coastal environments, particularly bays and inlets.
White-winged Scoters are experts in diving deep underwater, capable of holding their breath while wrestling with shellfish from underwater rocks.
They usually forage in large flocks and prefer to forage from the bottom, but they will also take prey from the surface of the water. In freshwater habitats, they feed on mollusks, crustaceans, small fish, and aquatic insects.
White-winged Scoter call:
Nests of White-winged Scoters are shallow depressions on the ground, mostly concealed under a thick bush or a crevice and close to the water. They are built with plant material and lined with down.
The female lays eight to ten eggs and incubates them for twenty-five days to a month. The young leave the nest after hatching and can already feed themselves. The female takes care of them for about three more weeks.
Fun Fact: Female White-winged Scoters return to the nesting area where they were hatched. This behavior is called “Natal Philopatry.”
9. Black Scoter
The Black Scoter is also called American Scoter. Male Black Scoters are aptly named because their whole bodies are velvety black, with the exception of a bright yellow patch at the base of their bills.
Female Black Scoters aren’t black at all. They are brownish overall, with the lower half of their head paler than the rest of the body. Their cap is dark brown, and their bill is black.
Juveniles are a combination of both males and females. Their coloring and dark cap are like the females, but they also have the yellow knob at the base of their bill like the males.
- Melanitta americana
- Length: 17 – 21 in (43 – 53 cm)
- Weight: 387.4 oz (1088 g)
- Wingspan: 30 – 35 in (76 – 89 cm)
Black Scoters breed in Canada and Alaska before migrating to coastal areas of the United States.
You can find Black Scoters primarily in saltwater, particularly along rocky coastlines, during winter, or when migrating. They usually form large winter flocks with other scoter species. During the nesting period, they move to more sheltered habitats like ponds and small lakes with vegetation on the edges.
Black Scoters dive for shellfish and mollusks in oceans and bay coasts. They may occasionally eat crabs and shrimp, and other marine vegetation on top of shellfish and mollusks. When they’re in freshwater, they eat a lot of insects and their larvae, fish eggs, and other vegetation.
Black Scoter calls: They are noisy birds that are easily identified in winter with the males’ descending whistle.
Nests of Black Scoters are usually hidden in a rock crevice or on the ground sheltered by grass clumps. They are usually within a hundred feet of the water. The female makes a depression on the ground or on grass and lines it with her own feathers.
She will lay around eight to nine eggs and incubates them for about twenty-eight days. She will tend to them for about three weeks, after which they have to fend for themselves.
Fun Fact: Tens of thousands of Black Scoters migrate south together, creating a fantastic spectacle.
10. Harlequin Duck
Harlequin Ducks are small, extremely striking sea ducks. They are instantly recognizable because of their unique multi-color and multi-patterned features. Breeding males are more colorful than females.
They have slate blue color on their head, neck, and body and reddish sides and crowns. Black bordered white stripes line their chest, neck, and head, and a white dot behind their eyes. They also have white markings on their back.
Non-breeding males have brown bodies but the facial markings of breeding males.
Females are generally brown all over with three recognizable white markings on their heads – a small patch on top of the eye, another small patch in front of their bill, and a small dot behind the eye.
- Histrionicus histrionicus
- Length: 15 – 21 in (38 – 53 cm)
- Weight: 24 oz (680 g)
- Wingspan: 26 – 28 in (66 – 71 cm)
Harlequin Ducks breed in eastern and western Canada near the coasts and Alaska before migrating short distances to the Canadian coasts and the coasts of northeastern US states.
You can find Harlequin Ducks in fast-moving mountain streams and rivers and pounding surf and white water during the summer. In winter, you can find them on rocky, wave-lashed coasts, wherever there are turbulent waters.
Harlequin Ducks are excellent swimmers and divers used to their harsh surroundings. They easily swim through tough currents and dive for food underwater. In the process, they may get dashed against the rocks because of the turbulent waves. They eat mollusks and crustaceans, small fish, and marine worms. They also eat aquatic insects that they find on the bottom of rivers.
Harlequin Duck Song:
Nests of Harlequin Ducks are often found on the ground near the water. They may be concealed in a tree cavity, a tree stump, or a rock crevice. They are usually just a shallow depression made of grasses, twigs, and weeds and lined with down. The female lays three to ten eggs that she has to incubate for about a month.
Fun Fact: Harlequin ducks are sometimes called the “Sea Mouse” because of their mouse-like squeaks. They are also sometimes referred to as “painted ducks” because of their attractive colors.
11. Barrow’s Goldeneye
Barrow’s Goldeneyes are medium-sized ducks that are commonly mistaken for Common Goldeneyes because they have very similar features. Male Barrow’s Goldeneyes have black heads with a glossy purplish sheen. They have a white crescent-like patch behind their black bill.
They have golden yellow eyes and white chests and bellies. Their top half is black with distinct white shoulder bars.
Female Barrow’s Goldeneyes have gray bodies, a white collar around their necks, dark brown heads, yellow-orange bills, and the typical golden yellow eyes. They also have white wing patches like the males.
Juveniles are similar to females, except they have a faint white crescent mark of the adult males.
- Bucephala islandica
- Length: 16 – 20 in (41 – 51 cm)
- Weight: 38.4 oz (1088 g)
- Wingspan: 30 – 32 in (76 – 81 cm)
Barrow’s Goldeneye breed in western Canada, Alaska, and a few areas of eastern Canada near the coast before migrating to northwestern US states and the west coast of Canada.
You can find Barrow’s Goldeneyes in small mountain lakes and small ponds with nearby mature trees with nesting cavities. During migration, they stop at estuaries, bays, and inlets. In winter, you’ll find them along rocky ocean coasts or inland lakes.
During the breeding season, Barrow’s Goldeneyes favor aquatic insects and, in fact, will head to habitats that have no insect-eating fish around so they won’t have any competition for this type of prey. In winter, they will feast on crustaceans, mollusks, and small fish.
Barrow’s Goldeneye call:
Nests of Barrow’s Goldeneyes are usually in cavities in cliffs and trees, or they use old woodpecker holes. They may nest on the ground under a bush if there are no available cavities. The female lays six to twelve eggs and incubates them for about a month.
When they hatch, the female leads their young to where the food is so they can feed themselves. Sometimes, broods mix with other broods, particularly if the female leaves early or when broods are part of a territorial dispute among females.
Attracting Barrow’s Goldeneyes to your backyard is possible if you put up nest boxes for them before the breeding season.
Fun Fact: In Iceland, around Lake My’vatn, local residents always have nest boxes around their homes and barns for Barrow’s Goldeneyes. It has been a long-standing tradition for the people in this area to host these ducks.
12. King Eider
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.
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 call:
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.
13. Steller’s Eider
Breeding Adult Male Steller’s Eiders have an interesting coloring and pattern. They are buffy underneath and black and white on the back and head. Their bills, legs, and feet are blue-gray.
Adult Females are dark brown with a light white eyering. Non-breeding males resemble the females, but they are light brown. They both have the same blue-black bordered white secondary flight feathers and white underwings.
- Polysticta stelleri
- Length: 17 – 19 in (43 – 48 cm)
- Weight: 27.2 oz (771 g)
- Wingspan: 28 – 30 in (71 – 76 cm)
You can find Steller’s Eiders in very limited habitats. They’re birds of the coastlines of Alaska and Eastern Russia, and they mostly stay in coastal bays and lagoons during winter and when molting. Look for them around tidal flats when molting because that’s where they stay when they rest, as they’re flightless at this time. During nesting season, they stay in coastal tundra with sedge marshes and freshwater ponds.
Steller’s Eiders usually stay on the surface of the water when they forage. Sometimes, they stay close to shore and catch crustaceans, worms, mollusks, and mussels. On breeding grounds, they feast on beetles, small crustaceans, seeds of grasses, sedges, and other plants. They may occasionally dive into deeper water to take prey from the water column and the sea floor.
Stellar’s Eider calls:
Stellar’s Eiders breed in northern Alaska and spend the winter in southern Alaska. They also are found in northern Eurasia.
Nests of Steller’s Eiders are mostly found on raised ridges or hummocks around marshy tundra surrounded by moss, lichen, and grasses and near water.
The female is responsible for building the nest using grasses, sedges, moss, and weeds. She may add her own down feathers when she has laid the third egg. She lays from five to ten eggs that hatch after twenty-six days.
Fun Fact: The Inupiat Eskimos call Steller’s Eider “the bird that sat in the campfire” because of the male’s burnt orange color of its belly.
14. Spectacled Eider
Spectacled Eiders are small ducks that are recognizable for their unique “spectacled” faces. Males have a more prominent “googles” feature on their white faces. The googles outline their eye area in black. They have greenish feathers at the back of their heads, and their bills are bright orange with white feathers extending up to the tip. Their upperparts are white, and their underparts are black.
Females and juveniles have light brown heads and brown bodies with even darker barrings everywhere. The “googles” or “spectacles” aren’t as prominent but are still slightly visible on the face. They also have dark bills.
- Somateria fischeri
- Length: 20 – 23 in (51 – 58 cm)
- Weight: 51.2 oz (1451 g)
- Wingspan: 35 – 36 in (89 – 91 cm)
Spectacled Eiders breed in Alaska and eastern Russia and winter in the Bering Sea.
You can find Spectacled Eiders along the open seas, coasts, and tundra (treeless plains in the Arctic) habitats. Their nesting sites are in small islands in lakes, particularly with grasses and marshes near the water’s edge. During the winter, they move to large breaks in the sea ice or polynyas.
In breeding grounds, Spectacled Eiders feast on a lot of insects, plants, and seeds. They will also dive to catch shrimp, snails, and clams. There are also plenty of mosses and sedges to eat. When they’re at sea, they feed on mollusk, clams, snails, and barnacles deep underwater.
Spectacled Eider calls:
Nests of Spectacled Eiders are usually found on small islands, pond shorelines, and hummocks (raised ridges). The female builds the nest with plant materials and her own downy feathers as lining. She will lay between three to six eggs which she solely incubates for about twenty-four days. When the eggs hatch, chicks are led to the water to find their own food.
Fun Fact: The Spectacled Eider molts at sea.
Smews are the only living members of the genus Mergellus. Male Smews are stunning since their feathers look like cracked ice. They are white overall, with a white crest and black patches and ‘veins.’
Female Smews look nothing like the males and may even be mistaken for ruddy ducks. They have reddish heads with a white patch at the base of their hooked and serrated bills, white throats, dark gray backs, and lighter gray breasts and bellies with a scaled pattern.
- Mergellus albellus
- Length: 14.5 – 17 in (37 – 43 cm)
- Weight: 22.4 oz (635 g)
- Wingspan: 24 – 26 in (61 – 66 cm)
Smews are usually found in Eurasia, but they wander into North America.
You can find Smews around fish-rich lakes and slow-moving rivers. During the breeding season, Smews will head to forests with pine trees that are near the same water regions.
Smews dive and pursue their prey underwater, such as insects and small fish.
Nests of Smews are normally found in tree holes or tree cavities, such as old woodpecker nests. The female will simply line the interior with down and lay anywhere from six to nine eggs. She will incubate them for about a month.
Fun Fact: The term “smew” has been used since the 17th Century, but no one actually knows how it came to be. It was most likely derived from “smee,” a dialectal term for “wild duck.”