Spectacled Eider

About the Spectacled Eider


Spectacled eiders nest within a narrow coastal strip of Alaska and in northeastern Siberia. Female spectacled eiders prefer to nest in sedge meadows and on peninsulas and islands adjacent to tundra ponds. The females lay an average of 4-5 eggs. During brood rearing they concentrate on inland ponds and coastal shallows.

Latin: Somateria fischeri

Average length: M 20", F 19"

Average weight: M 3 lbs., F 3 lbs.


In both sexes, the feathers extend down to the nostrils, a characteristic not found in the other eiders. Male spectacled eiders are striking, with a pale green head, bright orange bill and the characteristic white spectacle-like patches around the eyes. The chest, rump, tail and belly are black, and the throat, neck and back are white. The legs and feet are yellow-brown and the iris of the eye is pale blue. Female spectacled eiders are a tawny color, similar to the female king and common eiders, with a gray-blue bill and light brown spectacles around their blue eyes. The legs and feet are yellow-brown.

Spectacled Eider Distribution

Food Habits

Spectacled eiders often feed like dabbling ducks, immersing their heads in the water and tipping up to forage. They feed primarily on mollusks and crustaceans in shallow waters and may forage on pelagic or free-floating amphipods that are concentrated along the sea-water/pack-ice interface. On coastal breeding grounds, they feed on freshwater mollusks, small crustaceans, insect larvae, grasses, berries and seeds. They utilize inland ponds and coastal shallows during brood rearing to feed on crane flies and caddis fly larvae.


Spectacled Eiders have very specific breeding and wintering locations. Breeding occurs on the north and west coastal plains of Alaska. Wintering is limited to a very specific area in the Bering Sea.

Migrating and Wintering

Spectacled eiders leave the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta in Alaska after breeding (males: late June; females: late July through August) and move out to sea (Beaufort, Chukchi and Bering seas). The majority winter in the Bering Sea, though they have been recorded on the Aleutian Islands, Kenai Peninsula and Kodiak Island. Individuals have been recorded as far south as Vancouver Island and the California coast.

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