Photo: kuhnmi/Flickr Creative Commons

Priority Bird

Spectacled Eider

Somateria fischeri

An uncommon and poorly known eider of the high Arctic, its distribution centered on the Bering Sea. Generally in small flocks. Tends to occur mainly in areas where travel is difficult for humans -- boggy tundra in summer, at sea around pack ice at other times; its winter range far out in the Bering Sea was unconfirmed until recently. Its remote habitat and bizarre, ghostly appearance contribute to its aura of mystery.
Conservation status In the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta of western Alaska, one of the main breeding areas, populations declined by 96% from 1970 to 1993. Populations elsewhere may be declining, but not so sharply. Total numbers in Russia are not well known. Like other Arctic birds, probably vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
Family Ducks and Geese
Habitat Ocean, tundra. In breeding season on wet low-lying tundra with many lakes and ponds, sometimes well inland. At other seasons on ocean. May be near coastline but often far offshore, along edges and openings of floating pack ice.
An uncommon and poorly known eider of the high Arctic, its distribution centered on the Bering Sea. Generally in small flocks. Tends to occur mainly in areas where travel is difficult for humans -- boggy tundra in summer, at sea around pack ice at other times; its winter range far out in the Bering Sea was unconfirmed until recently. Its remote habitat and bizarre, ghostly appearance contribute to its aura of mystery.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male, breeding
  • adult female
  • immature male
  • adult male, molting
Feeding Behavior

During most of year forages mainly by diving and swimming underwater. Supposedly able to remain submerged longer than most diving ducks. On tundra in summer may forage by dabbling in shallow water or by walking on land.



Young

Leave nest shortly after hatching, are led to water by female. Young are tended by female but find all their own food. Age at first flight 53 days or less, a rapid development for large size of bird.

Diet

mostly mollusks. During most of year, when at sea, diet is mainly mollusks. In summer on tundra, diet includes many aquatic insects and some crustaceans, plus much plant material such as sedges, grasses, and berries.


Nesting

Most pairs evidently formed in winter, before spring migration to nesting grounds. Male's displays include rearing up out of water, wing-flaps, shaking head rapidly, stretching neck upward and then jerking head back in quick motion. Nest site is usually very close to edge of tundra pond, on a raised ridge or hummock; sites may be re-used in subsequent years. Nest (built by female) is a shallow depression lined with plant material and with large amounts of down. Eggs 3-6, sometimes 1-8. Olive buff. Incubation is by the female only, about 24 days. Young: Leave nest shortly after hatching, are led to water by female. Young are tended by female but find all their own food. Age at first flight 53 days or less, a rapid development for large size of bird.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Flocks in migration usually fly low over sea. Winter range is still very poorly known; thought to be around southern edge of pack ice far out in Bering Sea, but there is still little direct evidence.

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Migration

Flocks in migration usually fly low over sea. Winter range is still very poorly known; thought to be around southern edge of pack ice far out in Bering Sea, but there is still little direct evidence.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Usually silent; a soft ah-hoo!
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.
Arctic Slope

Arctic Slope

Audubon Alaska is pursuing permanent wilderness designation for the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

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