Male breeding plumage.
  • Male breeding plumage.
  • Female

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King Eider

Somateria spectabilis
The swans, geese and ducks are mid-sized to large birds most commonly found on or near water. Most have plump bodies, long necks and short wings. Most feed while on the water, diving or merely tilting their bodies so that their heads and necks are submerged to search for fish, plants and invertebrates. Washington representatives of the order all belong to one family:
The waterfowl family is represented in Washington by two distinct groups—the geese and swans, and the ducks. Whistling-ducks are also considered a distinct subfamily, and, although they have not been sighted in Washington in many years, Fulvous Whistling-Ducks have been recorded historically in Washington and remain on the official state checklist. All members of the waterfowl family have large clutches of precocial young. They hatch covered in down and can swim and eat on their own almost immediately after hatching.

    General Description

    This large seaduck resides all around the northern hemisphere, breeding on tundra near coasts north of the Arctic Circle and wintering far enough south to escape winter ice, often at sea. It is a rare winter visitor along the West Coast outside Alaska. Washington has 11 accepted records ranging from late October to mid-May, all but one of them from inland marine waters; the other is from Westport (Grays Harbor County). British Columbia has about 30 records, California close to 40, and Oregon, 13. King Eiders are often found in the same places as other diving seaducks, especially Surf and White-winged Scoters.

    The male in spectacular breeding plumage cannot be mistaken for any other bird. However, nearly all sightings of King Eider outside its normal range are of females and subadult males, which are much plainer and readily confused with Common Eider (an excessively rare bird along the West Coast). The main distinction is the latter’s larger head and longer, more extensively feathered bill.

    Revised June 2007

    North American Range Map

    North America map legend

    Federal Endangered Species ListAudubon/American Bird Conservancy Watch ListState Endangered Species ListAudubon Washington Vulnerable Birds List

    View full list of Washington State's Species of Special Concern