The King Returneth!

King Eider (Somateria spectabilis)

What I am talking about is the king eider, earlier this winter it was reported down at the Herring Run at the Cape Cod Canal. I went down numerous times and struck out each time. Thursday and Friday, the king eider was again reported at the Herring Run. So on Saturday, March 18, traveled down to the herring run recreation area located on the Route 6 side of the canal. Arriving, looking toward the mouth of the Herring Run River there were no eider flocks to be seen. However, two flocks of eiders were in the canal just below the parking lot. Searching over the closest congregation did not reveal the king eider. Looking toward the Sagamore Bridge, we noticed further down the canal service road numerous people observing the second flock. Walking toward them, we saw that the people had spotting scopes, binoculars, and cameras. When we arrived and talked to the people that were there, they were kindly enough to show us the king eider. To separate the king eider from the common eiders, you needed to look for the king eider’s blue head. The hard part was if you took your eyes for a second off of the king eider it seemed to disappear as it moved around in the large flock of common eiders. People stopped and asked us what we were looking at, and we discussed t the rarity of the king eider and pointed it out to them. Near the end of our stay, a large fishing boat was motoring down the canal toward the Sagamore Bridge and the sea. For some reason, the boat made almost all of the docks fly off. I was able to obtain some flight photographs of the king eider. The sad part was as we were leaving, a woman showed up have not driven an hour and hoping to see the king eider. We told the lady it may be possible if you travel down to discuss it state Park reservation and check out near the fishing pier it could be feasible to see the king eider.

King Eider (Somateria spectabilis) swarming with Common Eiders
King Eider (Somateria spectabilis) diving
King Eider (Somateria spectabilis) taking off for flight
King Eider (Somateria spectabilis) swarming with Common Eiders
King Eider (Somateria spectabilis) flying
King Eider (Somateria spectabilis) in flight with common eiders

King Eider are a rarity, but almost every year a few show up along the Massachusetts coast. This year they have been reported in Gloucester, Boston Harbor, Race Point Beach and the Cape Cod Canal.

King eiders breed along the arctic coast. It winters in arctic and subarctic marine areas, most notably in the Bering Sea, the west coast of Greenland, eastern Canada, and northern Norway. Wintering birds can form large flocks on suitable coastal waters, with some flocks exceeding 100,000 birds. It also occurs annually off the northeastern United States, Scotland, and Kamchatka.

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