King Eider - Oceana


King Eider

Somateria Spectabilis


Cold temperate to polar latitudes of the northern hemisphere


Nest on tundra; feed in freshwater and coastal waters

Feeding Habits

Foraging omnivore


Order Anseriformes (water fowl), Family Anatidae (ducks, geese, and relatives)


King eiders eat a variety of invertebrate prey, diving for benthic mollusks and crustaceans. They also often enter fresh or brackish water to feed on insect larvae (especially caddisflies and midges), and they are known to eat some plant material when nesting.

Though the king eider is predominately marine, it nests inland on dry Arctic tundra. After returning from wintering grounds in southern fjords, these birds form relatively isolated breeding pairs. They reproduce via internal fertilization, and females lay fertilized eggs into nests directly on the tundra surface. Both males and females incubate the eggs and care for the chicks. When the king eider is not breeding, it spends much of its time associated with the ice edge. Though they isolate themselves during breeding, king eiders are quite social the rest of the year and can be observed in flocks of at least a thousand individuals.

The king eider is a common species throughout most of its range, but scientists believe the populations to be decreasing, likely a result of oil pollution, legal hunting, and other human threats. Populations are still high enough for scientists to consider this species one of least concern, but with continuing expansion of oil and gas exploration in the Arctic Ocean and adjacent seas, king eider populations may become more at risk of endangerment.

Engage Youth with Sailors for the Sea

Oceana joined forces with Sailors for the Sea, an ocean conservation organization dedicated to educating and engaging the world’s boating community. Sailors for the Sea developed the KELP (Kids Environmental Lesson Plans) program to create the next generation of ocean stewards. Click here or below to download hands-on marine science activities for kids.

Kids Environmental Lesson Plans

Additional Resources:

IUCN Red List