Bird of the Week – King Eider


A King Eider drake in breeding plumage is so outrageous looking, that it seems improbable.

King Eider, Resurrection Bay, Alaska

King Eider, Resurrection Bay, Alaska

But, yeah, that’s really what they look like, easily the most colorful of North American waterfowl. This is a sea duck, that comes ashore to nest in tundra ponds along the Arctic coast of North America, including Alaska. The Latin name for this species is Somateria spectabilis. The genus name Somateria is a combination of the Greek words sōma or sōmatos, meaning “body”, and erion, meaning “wool”; the combination, “wooly body,” is a reference to the eider’s famously thick, soft down. The species name, spectabilis is Latin for “showy”, “remarkable” or “worth seeing”, a reference to the handsomeness of the adult male’s plumage. So the Latin translates as “very showy wooly body.”

The King Eider hen (Queen Eider?) is less colorful but still beautiful:

King Eider Hen, Resurrection Bay, Alaska

King Eider Hen, Resurrection Bay, Alaska

You can see spectacular rafts of mixed Common and King Eiders off the coast of Kodiak Island most winters.

Camera geek stuff: f6.3, 1/640, ISO2000.

For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

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5 thoughts on “Bird of the Week – King Eider

  1. Very showy wooly body bird indeed! It’s always a treat to see these gorgeous creatures in such detail, especially as I sit here watching the snow get deeper.

  2. WC, although I am in agreement with you that the male King Eider is a very beautiful bird, I must take exception that it is “easily the most colorful of North American waterfowl”.
    I refer you to the male Aix Sponsa, or Wood Duck which is quite common in my neck of the woods (northwest Ohio).
    Since its breeding range encompasses a part of northern Idaho you may be able to see one of these magnificent birds this summer.

    • WC has approximately eleventy zillion photos of Wood Ducks. They are fairly common in the parks along the Greenbelt in Boise. And they are very handsome. But, with all respect, they don’t hold a candle to a King Eider in breeding plumage. WC would rank Wood Ducks third, behind the King Eider and the Harlequin Duck. Ars non disputandens and all that.

      But WC does have a Wood Duck post in the queue.

      /WC

  3. Thanks for your response. And you are correct that there can be no dispute in matters of art or taste.
    Quite frankly, I had forgotten about the Harlequin Duck, probably because there are none in my area.
    I must say that I thoroughly enjoy your blog. It very well written and the photography is outstanding.
    Have a good day.

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