Bird of the Week – Spectacled Eider


A close cousin to last week’s King Eider, the Spectacled Eider is another of Alaska’s arctic sea ducks.

Spectacled Eider, Yukon National Wildlife Refuge

Spectacled Eider, Yukon National Wildlife Refuge

The Spectacled Eider is classified as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. But WC suspects there was still poaching back in 2008 when this photo was taken. Getting this close involved a 90 minute stalk wiggling along on WC’s belly, and even then the bird was quite nervous.

Like a lot of ducks, after mating the drakes leave. But WC was able to find one small group still hanging around together.

Spectacled Eider Drakes and Hens, Yukon National Wildlife Refuge

Spectacled Eider Drakes and Hens, Yukon National Wildlife Refuge

One of the astonishing bird discoveries of the last fifty years was the identification of the wintering grounds of the Spectacled Eiders. In the winter, the entire global population of spectacled eiders congregates in gaps in the sea ice (called polynyas) in the Bering Sea between St. Lawrence and St. Matthew Islands. The wintering habitat of spectacled eiders was unknown until the 1990s. They use these gaps in the ice to dive down and collect mollusks and other crustaceans from the sea floor.

Imagine flying over the miles of barren sea ice and discovering this:

Spectacled Eiders, 2009, south of St. Larence Island. Photo by Bill Larned.

Spectacled Eiders, 2009, south of St. Larence Island. Photo by Bill Larned.

 

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

For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

 

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