Female © Evan Lipton
Immature male © Jacob Drucker
Male © Ian Davies
Male © Marco Valentini
+ 4
Female © Marco Valentini
Male and female © Lev Frid
Male (with Common Eider) © Thomas Ford-Hutchinson

King Eider Somateria spectabilis

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A fantastic sea duck of the high Arctic. Breeding male is particularly shocking, as if you left a child unsupervised with a set of paints; it would be very difficult to mistake this bird for anything else. At a distance, look for black back with “sails” sticking up, powdery-blue nape, and enormous orange knob on the face. Immature male is variable but usually dark brown or blackish overall with paler breast and orange bill. Female is buffy-brown with a blackish bill shaped to look like she’s smiling. Extensive breeding range across the Arctic tundra; winters at slightly lower latitudes, rarely as far south as the mid-Atlantic states of the U.S. Most often seen singly or in small flocks on the ocean, often mixed with Common Eider or other sea ducks. Rare on inland lakes, but more regular inland than Common Eider. Females and young males more regularly seen further south than adult males.