fb  Spitsbergen Panoramas - 360-degree panoramas  de  en  nb  Spitsbergen Shop  
pfeil THE Spitsbergen guidebook pfeil

King eider (Somateria spectabilis)

The male King eider is a beau­tiful, colorful bird that many orni­tho­lo­gists visi­ting Sval­bard wish to see. Howe­ver, it takes a bit of luck to see them.

King eider

King eider (male), Advent­da­len.

Descrip­ti­on: With a length of 55 cm and a weight of 1.5-1.8 kg, the King eider is slight­ly smal­ler than the Com­mon eider. The dif­fe­rence bet­ween the fema­les of both spe­ci­es is con­fi­ned to some small details. Distin­gu­is­hing the males is much easier: The male King eider has a grey head, a bul­ging fore­head and a read beak which is a real eye-cat­cher. Ano­ther dif­fe­rence is the black back (Com­mon eider: white back), which can be seen even from a distance.

King eider and common eider

King eider: adult male (lower­most, right side), sub-adult male (upper one, right side).
Com­mon eider: male (left side, lower one). Ymer­buk­ta, late June.

Distribution/Migrations: King eiders have a cir­cum­po­lar dis­tri­bu­ti­on and are lar­ge­ly con­fi­ned to arc­tic lati­tu­des, even more so than the Com­mon eider. In Sval­bard, the King eider is gene­ral­ly rare, but most com­mon on the cen­tral west coast and at Reins­dyr­flya and near­by islands (Andøya­ne). So far as is known, they spend the win­ter on the coast of nor­t­hern Nor­way.

King eider

King eider: adult males (nr. 1 and 4 from left), sub-adult male (nr. 3), fema­les (nr. 2 and 5). Fri­dt­jov­ham­na, end of Juni.

Bio­lo­gy: The pre­fer­red habi­tat is flat tun­dra with small freshwa­ter ponds. King eiders live on a ran­ge of inver­te­bra­tes and crustace­ans which they find on the bot­tom near the shore­li­ne. They do not breed in colo­nies, but form small groups after the bree­ding peri­od. They come back to the bree­ding are­as slight­ly later than the Com­mon eiders and lay four to six eggs, which are incu­ba­ted by the fema­le for 22 to 24 days. The male lea­ves the nest short­ly after egg lay­ing. The fema­le lea­ves tog­e­ther with the chicks befo­re the­se can fly, to join other fema­les on the water.

King eider

King eider (four males), Advent­da­len.

Mis­cel­la­neous: The male King eider is a beau­tiful­ly colou­red bird that is high on the wish list of many bird­wat­chers who come to Spits­ber­gen. It needs a bit of luck to see them. Check careful­ly any lar­ge flocks of Com­mon eiders, as a King eider or two may occa­sio­nal­ly mix in with them. King eiders are usual­ly quite shy in Spits­ber­gen and accor­din­gly dif­fi­cult to pho­to­graph. You will get the best chan­ces for good obser­va­tions and pho­to­gra­phy if you take a trip by car on the road into Advent­da­len in June.

The total popu­la­ti­on of King eiders in Sval­bard may be bet­ween 1200-2500 bree­ding pairs.



This and other publishing products of the Spitsbergen publishing house in the Spitsbergen-Shop.

last modification: 2019-02-24 · copyright: Rolf Stange