Cape Cod Canal and Female King Eider

Red-breasted mergansers

On last Friday the kids and I visited the Cape Cod Canal. We explored two different locations, the Herring Run in Bournedale and the Fish Pier and Scusset State Reservation.

It was a lovely day with blue skies, the sun shining, the temperature in the mid-30s, and there was no wind.

The canal in the winter is a location to see multiple species of sea ducks. Usually, you will find enormous flocks of our writers, close together, and circling small portions of the canal. This day, there were the usual numbers of eiders, but they were all scattered along the shore in anywhere from 1/4 of a mile to half a mile of the locations that we were visiting.

A few of the species that we observed included common eiders, red-breasted mergansers, common golden eyes, and a surf scoter. Also, there was one female king eider. I was able to visualize the female king eider, and my son was able to photograph the species.

Common golden eye
Common eider

The female king eider is a warm brown color overall, slightly paler on the head and neck. The feathers on her upperparts and flanks are marked with blackish chevrons, while those on her neck and head bear fine black streaks. She has a buffy spot at the base of her bill and a buffy eye ring which extends into a downward curving stripe behind her eye. Her bill is variously described as black or grey, and her legs and feet are greenish greys. While the common female eider coloring has brownish all over with black barring, especially on sides and flanks. Dark speculum in wing outlined in white. Bill pale greenish gray to olive green or dark gray.

Female king eider
Common eider

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