|Conservation status||Abundant in its remote northern range, total population running to several million. Like other Arctic birds, vulnerable to the effects of climate change.|
|Family||Ducks and Geese|
|Habitat||Rocky coasts, ocean. Nests on high arctic tundra, both along coast and around freshwater lakes far inland. In winter on ocean, mostly in far north, including around edge of pack ice. Less tied to coast than Common Eider, may occur farther inland in summer and farther offshore in winter. Rarely on fresh water in winter, as on the Great Lakes.|
Forages mainly underwater. Often forages in deep water and may dive more than 150' below surface.
4-5, sometimes 3-7. Pale olive. Incubation is by female only, 22-24 days. Young: leave nest shortly after hatching and go to water. Female tends young, but young find all their own food. Several broods of young often join (in group called "creche"), accompanied by several adult females. Age at first flight not known, probably 50+ days.
leave nest shortly after hatching and go to water. Female tends young, but young find all their own food. Several broods of young often join (in group called "creche"), accompanied by several adult females. Age at first flight not known, probably 50+ days.
Mostly mollusks. Diet varies with season. Mollusks are among main foods at most times. Also eaten are crustaceans, insects, echinoderms, and some plant material. Insect larvae may be main foods in summer.
Most pairs are formed in spring, during migration or near breeding grounds. Several males may court one female, surrounding her on water. Displays of male include turning head rapidly from side to side, rearing up out of water while rotating head, flapping wings, also various head movements accompanied by cooing calls. Faster displays than in Common Eider. Nest site usually on raised dry ground not far from water. Nest is a shallow depression lined with bits of plant material and with large amounts of down.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Spring migration begins very early, flocks moving north over mostly frozen seas by early April. Those going to central Canadian Arctic apparently go around Alaska and northeast Canada, rather than flying overland. Although main wintering concentrations are very far north, winter strays have reached Florida, Louisiana, Kansas, southern California.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsA guttural croaking.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the King Eider
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the King Eider
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.