Eiders are a group of large seaducks and include the Common Eider, Spectacled Eider, Stellers Eider and the species featured here – the King Eider. Generally they over-winter and breed in the cool northern latitudes, with the King Eider, although circumpolar, exclusively living in the high arctic.
The King Eider feeds on marine invertbrates for which it dives to considerable depths. In Batsfjord in northern Norway they form large flocks on the sea. Indeed we saw one in excess of 5000 birds. Overnight a number of them visit the harbour where these images were obtained just after dawn.
As you can see the male is spectacular with his black body and pale orange breast. The crown and nape are pale blue; the distinct bill is orange-red, sweeping upward into a large, orange basal knob outlined in black. The cheeks are a subtle green. Wings are black with large white patches visible in flight. Notice also the two small black “sails” or upper wings that stick up from his back.
The female is a warm rufous-brown color with black chevrons on her upper parts and flanks. Both her head and neck are cinnamon-brown and finely streaked with black. She has a pale buff-colored eye ring and a down-curving rear eye stripe.