Tuesday, September 11, 2012

King Eider

Somateria spectabilis (male)
Take a look at the male King Eider in its breeding plumage. What a gorgeous duck! Their blue, yellow, and green face, contrasted with the stark white chest and black body, makes for a truly spectacular looking bird.

Of course, they don't look as brilliant all year-- outside of the June and July breeding season the colors dull significantly.

And of course, like many other ducks, the females are significantly less dramatic looking-- their feathers are reddish brown, barred with black and white. But those brown barred colors certainly help around breeding time, as the females are left alone to incubate their eggs. They nest on the ground and press their bodies low to stay hidden. They rarely even get up to feed during that three week incubation period!

King Eiders are highly gregarious birds, and can form flocks that number into the tens of thousands. They breed on the tundras of the Northern Hemisphere, and spend their summers on the Arctic and Sub-Arctic coasts, never travelling much further south than Scotland or New England. They feed on aquatic plants and animals, and can even dive down over 80ft to forage!

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : Northern Hemisphere
Size :  Length up to 24in (61cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Anseriformes
Family : Anatidae -- Genus : Somateria -- Species : S. spectabilis

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