Blue Zoo: King Eider


Featuring one amazing marine animal per week.

The King Eider (Somateria spectabilis) is a sea duck that can be found on or near the coast throughout much of the Arctic. During June and July, King Eiders breed on the tundra, near areas with freshwater. The nest is a shallow hole padded with down and grass.

It’s easy to distinguish males from females. The male King Eider has bright colors, while the females are mottled brown. Photos by Olaf Olivier Riemer via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons License, and DickDaniels via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons License.

By fall, they migrate further south to spend winter on the ocean, near sea ice or the shore. They can sometimes gather in enormous groups of 10,000 or more. King Eiders dive to the seafloor or the bottom of lakes or pools to catch small prey. They eat invertebrates like mussels and insect larvae, and sometimes plants or seaweed.

They are traditionally hunted sustainably by indigenous people, according to the IUCN. However, in some places King Eiders are now also over harvested or disrupted by human activity. The biggest threat to these birds would be an oil spill. They are currently considered a species of Least Concern, because of their large numbers.

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