King Eider – Length: 22 inches, Wing span: 35 inches
The high Arctic breeding range of the King Eider means that most people lucky enough to see one do so in the winter when they move somewhat farther south. Migration takes place in very large flocks, sometimes numbering in excess of 10,000 birds. King Eiders can migrate at any time of the day or night.
It is thought that King Eiders first breed at three years of age when they first attain adult plumage. They are known to have lived at least 15 years in the wild, but are suspected of occasionally living longer. Bad weather during spring migration can cause significant mortality at the high northern latitudes occupied by King Eiders.
The King Eider differs greatly in appearance based on gender.
Males distinctive and can not be confused with other species. King Eiders nest in far northern Canada and Alaska. Red bill, orange shield outlined with black. Pale blue crown and back of head. White neck and breast. Black body with white markings.
The following two images © Tim Bowen, USFWS
Females are brown, back darker than head. Pale eye line extends back and down from the eye, not clearly visible in this photograph.
First winter males dark brown with orange bill without the shield on the front of the head. Pale sport on side of tail and pale chest.
Non-breeding males dark brown, bill and shield yellow.
The following images are © Alan Wilson
Finer markings on the head. In good light shows a rich, mahogny color.
Note the color pattern on the back and the wings.