Types of Sea Ducks (Mergini) (With Pictures)

Types of Sea Ducks (Mergini) (With Pictures)

Sea ducks, also known as Merginae, are a group of waterbirds belonging to the Anatidae family, including geese, ducks, and swans. These birds have evolved to live in marine environments and have adapted unique physical features to thrive in this habitat.

On all continents except Antarctica, you can find sea ducks. This article will explore the world of sea ducks and closely examine the species that comprise this group.

Many species spend their winters in coastal waters and have specialised glands to tolerate the saltwater. Some of the mergansers prefer river habitats, while all but two of the approximately 20 species in this group occupy habitats in far northern latitudes. 

The fish-eating members of this group, including the mergansers and Smew, have serrated edges on their bills to help them grip their prey. These are known as “sawbills”. Other sea ducks collect molluscs or crustaceans by diving underwater to forage. 

1. Genus Bucephala

Bucephala originated from an ancient Greek word boukephalos, meaning “bull-headed”. Buffleheads have crests on their heads that make their heads look larger than they are.

1.1 Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)

Bufflehead Male
Bufflehead Female

Description: Buffleheads are small diving ducks about 38cm long and only weigh about 450g. The male Bufflehead has an iridescent green and purple head and neck. They have large white oval patches just behind the eyes.

Their breasts, flanks and bellies are white. Their wing feathers are black, with a large white patch covering most of their secondaries, but you don’t see this when they are swimming in the water. The males’ non-breeding colours are like the females’ but with larger white spots on the wings and face.

The female has a dark brown tone all over but is lighter grey on underparts. They have a small oblong white cheek spot. Both sexes have a greyish bill.

Similar tothe Harlequin Duck – Female Harlequins have two white spots on the side of their head, a circular one near the back and another white spot on the cheek.

Distribution:  Their breeding ranges are central Canada and Alaska. They migrate to the Pacific and the Atlantic in either North America or Mexico for winter.


  • Breeding – Freshwater and permanent ponds. Buffleheads are cavity nesters and prefer to use holes in trees to nest.
  • Wintering – On saltwater and uses shallow sheltered areas.

1.2 Barrow’s Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica)

Barrow’s Goldeneye Male
Barrow’s Goldeneye Female

Description: Barrow’s Goldeneyes are medium-sized diving ducks about 48 cm long and only weigh about 1,27 kg. The males in the breeding season are striking-looking birds. They have black heads, glossed green and purple, with a half-moon-shaped white spot in front of their eyes.

Their rumps and tails are black and stand out against their brilliant white flanks and breasts. They have black wings with white spots on them and have black bills.

The females have dark brown heads, slate grey backs, wings, and tails. Their neck, breast and flanks are white. Both sexes have bright amber eyes (hence the name).

Distribution:  Barrow’s Goldeneyes breed mostly in the Northern Hemisphere, which includes ranges in Canada, Europe, and Russia.

During winter, they migrate to the United States, part of Europe, southern Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia.


  • Breeding – Freshwater and shallow lakes with emergent vegetation. Must have abundant invertebrates.
  • Wintering – Marine habitats (saltwater).

1.3 Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)

Common Goldeneye Male
Common Goldeneye Female

Description: The Common Goldeye is a medium-sized diving duck. They are about 50cm long and weigh close to 1kg. They are chunky-looking with short necks. In breeding season, males have a dark triangular head with a greenish gloss.

They have a large round white spot below their bright amber eyes. They have a dark back and tail with bright white bellies and chests. Their folded wings show white bars.

Females have brown triangular heads with mostly grey bodies and white in their wings. Their legs and feet are both yellow. Their bills are blackish with small yellow tips.

Distribution:  Common Goldeneyes breed in almost the whole Northern Hemisphere from North America to Asia, although less so in Eastern Asia.

Western-breeding birds move to the Pacific coast along Oregon and California, and eastern breeders move to the Atlantic coast. 


  • Breeding – Primarily wetlands, rivers and lakes bordered by forests. Common Goldeneyes are cavity nesters and rely on holes in trees for nesting.
  • Wintering – Marine areas with shallow estuaries, coastal bays, and harbours. Prefers to forage for invertebrates and molluscs, which are situated in more shallow waters.

2. Genus Clangula

2.1 Long-Tailed Duck (Clangula huemalis)

Long-Tailed Duck Male
Long-Tailed Duck Female

Description: Male Long-tailed Ducks undergo a remarkable transformation in their plumage between the breeding season and winter. The difference between the two is quite striking. Their most noticeable feature is long and slender tails during the breeding season. However, what they have in common in both plumages is their small black bills with a pink band. 

  • Breeding males are dark from their heads to their breasts. They have a large white patch over their eyes. Their bellies and flanks are white. They have a white spot around the eyes. Their wings are a mottled brown. 
  • Non-breeding males have a white head with a light brown mask and a dark patch below their cheeks. They have a broad black breast band with white flanks and brown wings. 

The females lack the long tail. Breeding females have white heads with smudgy brown cheeks. Their wings, breasts, and backs are brown with lighter flanks. In winter plumage, their heads, throat, and chest are brown with a white patch around the eyes.  

Distribution: Long-tailed Ducks breed from Alaska through Northern Canada, Iceland, Eastern Greenland, Norway, Finland, and Northern Russia.

Their wintering grounds include the coastal regions of Northern America, Southern Alaska, Eastern Canada, Northeastern America, Southwestern Greenland, Western Iceland and Norway.

Also, coastal regions of the Baltic Sea include Germany, Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, Sweden, Southern Finland, and Estonia.  


  • Breeding – Freshwater wetlands
  • Wintering – Ocean coasts. They can also be found far offshore, especially at night, and will congregate in areas with extensive sea ice.

3. Genus Histrionicus  

3.1 Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus)

Harlequin Duck Male
Harlequin Duck Female

Description: Harlequin Ducks are small diving ducks with big round heads and steep foreheads. They grow to about 42cm. They weigh approximately 600g—the most beautiful waterbirds with their complex plumage.

  • Breeding plumage – Their bodies are slate blue with chestnut flanks. Their heads are elaborately marked, mostly blue-black, with a white spot behind their eyes. They have a white crescent shape in front of their eyes with a bit of chestnut near the top. They have a white stripe down their neck and sides. There is also a white ring around their necks.
  • Non-breeding plumage – Plumages are brown with white on the face and round white spots at each ear. Subtle white shoulder stripes and white on the wings

The females are faint brownish-grey with white spots on their faces: one spot behind and top of their eyes, one that runs from their eyes to the bill.

Similar to the:

  • Bufflehead – Female Buffleheads have one oblong white mark on each side of their head.
  • Long-tailed Duck: Female Long-tailed Ducks do not have similar white spots.
  • Surf Scoter – Female Surf Scoters have much larger bills.

Distribution: The Harlequin Ducks breed on the west coast of Russia, east and west coast of Alaska, Southern Greenland, and Iceland. Their wintering grounds are in the same areas, but they migrate to the coastal regions. They also migrate to the coastal waters of Korea and Japan.


  • Breeding – Rivers or streams. They prefer fast-moving waters with dense forests and shrubs next to them.
  • Wintering – Rocky coastal shorelines and shallow waters of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. They prefer pounding surf and white water.

4. Genus Lophodytes means crest and dutes means diver.

4.1 Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucallatus)

Hooded Merganser Male
Hooded Merganser Female

Description: The Hooded Merganser is a small diving duck. It is about 40cm long. They get to weigh approximately 870g. They get their names from their raised crests, which they can raise or lower. The Hooded Merganser has a sawbill (serrated beak). This beak helps the merganser hold on to slippery fish.

  • Breeding males – The Hooded Mergansers are very handsome-looking ducks, striking with black-coloured heads with white patches on either side of their crests. These patches are more conspicuous when the male raises them during courtship. They have black necks with black and white vertical markings on their chests. Their bellies are white with brown flanks. Their backs and wings are black with white stripes on their tertial wings.
  • Non-breeding males – The male non-breeders look very similar to the females, with the only difference being the males’ yellow eyes while the females’ eyes are brown.

The females have greyish bodies with a white patch over the lower body and chest. They have a golden crest which they can raise or drop.

Similar to Common Mergansers and  Red-breasted Mergansers.

  • Hooded Mergansers are considerably smaller. The lower part of the head of the females/non-breeding male Hooded Mergansers are lighter coloured.

Distribution: The Hooded Mergansers are found across North America. They also breed throughout the Pacific Northwest of the United States, across southern Canada, and east of the Mississippi. They are mainly seen in and around the Great Lakes.

They winter along the Pacific coasts of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.


  • Breeding – Freshwater rivers or lakes near forests for nest cavities.
  • Wintering – Saltwater brackish estuaries and tidal creeks

5. Genus Melanitta

Scoters are stocky diving ducks. They are mostly seen in flocks during winter and dive for their food: Crustaceans and molluscs. In the breeding season, they are less sociable and eat aquatic insects, fish eggs and some vegetation (duckweed).


There are three species of Scoter Sea Duck. These Scoters are listed by the IUCN as NT (near threatened). Surveys indicated that all three combined species have declined quite dramatically.

5.1 Black Scoter (Melanitta americana)

Black Scoter Male
Black Scoter Female

Description: The Black Scoter is a large diving duck that can grow to 49cm long. They can weigh up to 1.1kg. When they fly, you will notice that the Black Scoter have pointier tails.

  • Breeding males – Breeding males are all black except for the yellow-coloured swelling at the base of their bills.  
  • Non-breeding males – Very similar to females, and sometimes hard to tell apart.

The females are all dark brown except for pale cheeks and the pale sides of their necks.

Similar to the:

  • Common Scoter: Male Common Scoters have a bulbous bill, while Black Scoters do not. The female Common Scoters have small whitish patches at the base of their bills, and female Black Scoters have brown at the base.
  • Surf Scoter (female): The white spots on their heads can identify Female Surf Scoters, while female Black Scoters have blackheads.

Distribution: The Black Scoters breed mainly in Western Alaska and Eastern Canada and occur on the Siberian side of the Bering Straits, east of the Yana River.

During winter, they migrate to the Pacific coasts of Florida, the Gulf of Mexico and the northern USA, Mexico, Canada, the eastern coast of Russia, Korea, and Japan.


  • Breeding – They prefer freshwater habitats with low banks, small islets, and high aquatic invertebrates and plant life abundances. They are found in swampy valleys or among mossy bogs with moving rivers. They avoid water with high banks and forested areas.
  • Wintering – At sea or shallow coastal waters that are not too deep. Less than 20 m 

5.2 Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata)

Surf Scoter Male
Surf Scoter Female

Description: The Surf Scoter are large diving sea ducks native to North America. They can reach, on average, up to 48cm in length. Their weight, on average, is approximately 1.05kg.

  • Breeding males – Surf Scoter males are velvety black and have white markings on the nape of their necks and foreheads. They have swollen bills with yellow, red, and white colour patterns and a black spot at their base. They have very pale eyes. 
  • Non-breeding males – Surf Scoter males are in their breeding colours. But a bit duller black all over with the same colouration on the bill. Very pale eyes.

The females are all dark brown. The tops of their heads are darker brown. They have two white spots on their face and one on their nape. Their bills are slightly bulkier.

Similar to the:

  • Black Scoter (female). Female Surf Scoters have white spots on their heads; female Black Scoters have blackheads. 
  • Female Bufflehead. Female Harlequins have two white spots on the side of their head, a circular one near the back and another white spot on their cheeks. Female Buffleheads have one oblong white mark on each side of their head.  
  • Female Harlequin Duck. Females of both species have two white spots on the side of their heads. Surf Scoter have a much larger bill.

Distribution: Surf Scoters are known to breed in Canada and Alaska. During the winter, these Scoters migrate along the North Pacific Sea to the southern coasts of Canada, the USA, and Mexico. They also move towards the eastern coast of the USA along the North Atlantic Ocean.


  • Breeding –. They breed in the boreal forests near northern freshwater lakes.  
  • Wintering – They inhabit marine habitats near the shore. If storms arrive, they will move into safe bays on shallow waters.

5.3 Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra)

Common Scoter Male
Common Scoter Female

Description: The Common Scoter is a large diving seabird that can reach a length of approximately 53 cm. They weigh, on average, up to 1 kg.

  • Breeding males –. They have bulbous black bills with yellow colouring over their noses. Their upper wings are more brownish. They raise their tails when swimming. 
  • Non-breeding males: Distinguished by their all-black appearance, Common Scoter males exhibit a purplish hue on their upper parts, complemented by darker grey tips on their secondary flight feathers.

The females are a little smaller than the males. They are sooty brown with black crowns and bodies; this extends across their foreheads to just above their eyes. Their bills are a slate grey. 

Similar to the Black Scoter. Black Scoters lack bulbous bills. The female Common Scoter has a small whitish patch at the base of its bill, whereas the female Black Scoter has brown at the base of its bill.

Distribution: This species breeds in Iceland, eastern Greenland (Denmark) and northern United Kingdom, across Scandinavia and northern parts of western and central Russia.

During winter, some Scoters stay in their current location, while others migrate south to the United Kingdom and the European Atlantic coasts, even as far as West Africa. Rarely, some have been spotted in North America as well.


  • Breeding – sea, lakes, or rivers, in woodland or tundra 
  • Wintering – form large flocks on coastal waters.

5.4 White-winged Scoter (Melanitta deglanti))

White-winged Scoter Male
White-winged Scoter Female

Description: White-winged Scoters are the largest of the diving Scoter birds. They average about 55cm. The average weight of these scoters is 1.380kg. Both sexes have white speculums that stand out when in flight. Hence the name. These speculums might be covered when they float.

  • Breeding males – The male ducks are mostly black with comma-shaped white marks around their eyes. Their bills are orange and red with black knobs at the base. 
  • Non-breeding males – The males are a lot darker with paler face patches.

The females are brown all over with a dark bill. Their heads are a darker brown, with two white smudge marks on their faces, one below and in front of the eye and one behind the cheek. They also have white speculums. The females also have feathered gapes.

Similar to Black Scoter. When in flight, the White-winged Scoters have white patches on their wings that the Black Scoters lack. Male White-winged Scoters have a white crescent on their heads, while Black Scoters’ heads are entirely black.

Distribution: This species breeds in Iceland and Canada. In winter, they move southwards down both coastal regions of the USA.


  • Breeding – Freshwater lakes, ponds, and slow-moving rivers.
  • Wintering – Winter in saltwater oceans and bays, especially shallow waters over shellfish beds.

6. Genus Mergellus

6.1   Smew (Mergellus albellus)

Smew Male
Smew Female

Description: The Smew is a small diving sea duck that measures an average of 42cm in length and weighs 500g.

  • Breeding males – Breeding males have a look of a Panda bear about them. They are white with black masks over their eyes, black patches on the rear of their heads, and one on their backs. Their bills are grey with a hooked tip.  
  • Non-breeding males –. They have plumage that resembles a female smew but keep their black backs and white wing patches.

Females have a white lower face and throat, chestnut-red crown, nape, upper neck, dusky grey wings, and back. The flanks and lower belly are mottled grey-white.

Distribution: Breeding across Central Asia winters on sheltered coasts or inland lakes of the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, northern Germany, and the Low Countries, with a small number reaching Great Britain, mostly at regular sites.


  • Breeding – Freshwater lakes, pools, slow-flowing rivers, and lowland oxbow lakes. 
  • Wintering – Winter in coastal lagoons, estuaries, and ice-free, slow-flowing rivers.

7. Genus Mergus

Mergus are fish-eating ducks belonging to the sea duck subfamily. They typically inhabit rivers, except the Red-breasted Merganser. Their long, thin bills have serrated edges that help to grip fish securely.

7.1   Brazilian Merganser (Mergus octosetaceus)

Brazilian Merganser Male
Brazilian Merganser Female

The Brazilian Merganser are diving sea ducks that can only be found in Argentina and Brazil. They grow to an average length of 53 cm. They have dark grey upperparts, shiny dark green hoods with a crest, light grey breasts, whitish bellies, white wing patches, thin, jagged black bills, and red legs and feet.

Although these sea ducks are usually found in northern latitudes, Brazilian Mergansers are an exception to this rule. The females of this species have the same colours as males but are smaller and have smaller bills and crests.

The Brazilian merganser is one of the most endangered waterfowl in the world, with possibly fewer than 300 birds remaining in the wild. Human activities make These birds highly vulnerable to habitat degradation and loss. The major threat to their survival is the silting of rivers caused by farming, mining, watershed degradation, soil erosion, and deforestation.

7.2 Scaly-sided Merganser (Mergus squamatus)

Scaly-sided Merganser Male
Scaly-sided Merganser Female

Description: Scaly-sided Mergansers are sleek, quiet, medium-sized diving sea ducks. Both sexes have prominent dark-edged white “scales” on the sides, distinguishing them from other merganser species. They both have bright orange-red bills and long, shaggy crests.

They are also among the most threatened sea duck species, per IUCN. This species has a small population rapidly declining due to habitat loss, hunting, and disturbance. Their classification is that of endangered. 

  • Breeding males have glossy dark heads and backs, white breasts, and underparts.  
  • Females have buffish heads and otherwise replace the male’s black with a grey colour.

Distribution: Breeding areas are in Primorye, Far East Russia, China, and DPR Korea. They winter in central and southern China, RO Korea.


  • Breeding – well-forested mountainous clear flowing rivers, nest in tree holes.
  • Wintering – inhabits freshwater habitats such as lakes, reservoirs, and mountainous rivers. It also feeds in large rivers, estuaries, and the sea, mainly found in freshwater.

7.2 Common Merganser (Mergus merganser)

Common Merganser Male
Common Merganser Female

Common Mergansers are large diving sea ducks. They reach an average length of 68cm. They can weigh up to an average of 2kg.


  • Breeding males – have black with iridescent green gloss heads and backs, white necks, and underparts.
  • Non-breeding males – Mostly grey, with a reddish-brown head and white chin. They also have white secondary feathers on the wing.

The females have reddish-brown heads, white necks, grey backs, and underparts.

Similar to: 

  • Hooded Merganser. Hooded Mergansers are considerably smaller. The lower parts of the heads of the females/non-breeding male Hooded Mergansers are lighter coloured. 
  • Red-breasted Merganser. Female/non-breeding male Common Mergansers and female/non-breeding male Red-breasted Mergansers are similar. The Common Merganser has white under their chins, while the Red-breasted does not. Also, the red on the necks of Common Mergansers ends abruptly compared to the gradual transition on the Red-breasted Mergansers. For both species, the breeding males have blackheads, and the females / non-breeding males do not.

Distribution: This species breeds year-round in central Asia, western China, northern Europe, and parts of the northern United States and southern Canada. Their breeding areas include Scandinavia, Russia, Central Asia, Mongolia, Japan, and southern Canada. These species winter in the US, Turkey, Greece, China, Korea, and Japan.


  • Breeding – Large streams and rivers and deep pools near waterfalls. 
  • Wintering – Sea water, rivers, streams, and lakes.

7.2 Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)

Red-breasted Merganser Male
Red-breasted Merganser Female

The Red-breasted Merganser is a sleek, diving sea duck. It is, on average, 60cm long. It can weigh up to 1.350kg. Both sexes have a crest and long red bills with serrated edges for holding fish.


  • Breeding males. They have dark green heads with long, untidy crests and red eyes. They are also black on their backs. Their necks are white, and they have reddish breasts (hence the name), shown only in males. Their lower bodies are all white. Their sides are grey.
  • Non-breeding males are all brownish-grey with brownish chins and dingy breasts.

Females are slim and have a brown head and grey body. Bill is dull red.

Similar to: 

  • Common Merganser. Female and non-breeding male Common Mergansers and female and non-breeding male Red-breasted Mergansers look identical. However, the Common Mergansers have white under their chin, whereas the Red-breasted Mergansers have a gradual transition of red on the neck. During the breeding season, males of both species have a black head. 
  • Hooded Merganser. Hooded Merganser is considerably smaller. The lower part of the head of a female or non-breeding male Hooded Merganser is lighter in colour. The Red-breasted Merganser is larger.

Distribution: The Red-breasted Merganser breeds across northern North America, Greenland, Iceland, and much of northern Eurasia, including parts of Eastern Europe, northeast China, and northern Japan. The Red-breasted Merganser winters across North America, Europe, Asia, and parts of the Middle East.


  • Breeding – Deepwater lakes, small rivers and streams with moderate currents in the Tundra and boreal forest regions. Also, the more saline waters, such as sheltered shallow bays, inlets, straits, or estuaries with sandy rather than muddy substrates.
  • Wintering – The majority of winters are at sea. They also frequent inshore and offshore waters, estuaries, bays, and brackish lagoons but prefer clear, shallow waters unaffected by heavy wave action.

8. Genus Polysticta

Eiders are large sea ducks. They breed in the cooler latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. The down feathers of eider ducks and some other ducks and geese fill pillows and quilts. They have named the type of quilt known as an eiderdown.

8.1 Steller’s Eiders (Polysticta stelleri)

Steller’s Eider Male
Steller’s Eider Female

Stella’s Eider is the smallest of the Eiders. These diving sea ducks grow to an average length of 45cm and weigh approximately 800g. 


  • Breeding males have white heads and shoulders, black caps, chins, throats, and rumps. They also have light-green patches behind their heads and in front of their eyes. Cinnamon breasts and shoulders have prominent black spots.
  • The non-breeding males are dark brown with white-bordered bluish speculums on their wings.

Females have dark to cinnamon brown feathers, pale-white eye-rings, and iridescent bluish-purple speculums bordered by white on their secondaries.

Distribution: There are three recognised breeding areas

  • The Russian-Atlantic population makes its breeding ground west of the Khatanga River in western Siberia. 
  • The Russian-Pacific population breed on the east side of the Khatanga River. 
  • The Alaska-breeding population breed on the Arctic Coastal Plain, and there are exceptionally small numbers in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.

Most of the Stella’s Eiders’ winter in the Barents and Baltic Seas.

In North America, Steller’s eiders winter along the Alaska Peninsula and the western Aleutian Islands south to British Columbia.


  • Breeding – marshy tundra along the coast in areas dominated by water sedge and pendant grass. 
  • Wintering – inhabits mostly bays and lagoons but also forages in deeper, usually sheltered waters.

9. Genus Somateria

All these Eiders breed in the cooler Latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere.

9.1 Common Eider (Somatria mollissima)

Common Eider Male
Common Eider Female

The Common Eider is the largest of The Eiders. It stands at 70cm and weighs approximately 2.6kg.

Description. Breeding males have a black cap, mostly white plumage above and black below. Pale green is on the back of their necks, and their bills range from green to yellow-orange.

The female is all brown but can be identified by their size alone.

Distribution. Non-breeding Common Eiders spend winter on the western coast of Alaska, Greenland, Western Canada, and Northwestern USA.


  • Breeding – Marine waters, usually near rocky seacoasts.
  • Wintering – Areas that have rocky seafloors and strong tides are typically abundant in molluscs.

9.2 King Eider (Somatria spectabillis)

 King Eider Male
 King Eider Female

King Eiders are large diving sea ducks that are, on average, 65cm long. They can weigh up to 2.2kg.

Description. King Eiders breeding plumage have mostly black bodies with buff-tinged white breasts and multicoloured heads. Their heads, napes and necks are a pale bluish grey, while their cheeks are pale green.

Their bills are red with white nails  (hard tissue at the tip of the beak) and a large plate above them, creating a bulge in their forehead. It is separated from the face by a thin black line. Some of its tertials are curved and form “spurs” along the back.

Females are brown all over with blackish chevrons on their upper parts and flanks. They have black streaks on their necks and heads with a buffy spot at the base of their greyish bills and have a buffy eye ring. 

Similar to: Common Eider female. Female Common Eiders are larger than female King Eiders. Female Common Eiders have distinct, wedge-shaped bills, while female King Eider’s bill appears to smile at the base.

Distribution. The King Eiders breed along the Arctic coasts of North America, Europe, and Asia in the Northern Hemisphere.

During winter, they inhabit Arctic and subarctic marine regions, such as the Bering Sea, Greenland’s west coast, eastern Canada, and northern Norway.


  • Breeding – both saltwater and freshwater environments.
  • Winters – marine areas, sea ice or large open-water areas in the ice.

9.3 Spectacled Eider (Somatria fischeri)

Spectacled Eider Male
Spectacled Eider Female

Description: The Spectacled Eiders are large diving sea ducks. They are recognisable because of their unique ‘spectacles” over their eyes. Males are more prominent than the females. They reach an average height of 57cm.

They weigh an average of 1.45kg. Males are spectacular in their breeding plumage. Unmistakable with their black bodies, white backs, and yellow-green heads with large circular white eye patches.

The non-breeding males are similar to the females.

Females are all brown, and the paler ‘spectacles’ can be seen. They have dark bills.

Distribution. Spectacled Eiders breed in Alaska and eastern Russia and winter in the Bering Sea. There are two breeding populations in Alaska and one in Russia. 


  • Breeding – Open seas, coasts, lakes, and Tundra.
  • Wintering – Marine areas, sea ice or large open-water areas in the ice.


With their remarkable adaptability, sea ducks thrive in freshwater and marine environments. Their ability to hunt underwater and use their wings for navigation and food search is admirable.

You will find these ducks breeding in colder environments, such as the Northern Hemisphere, which includes the Arctic. During the winter, they spend their time out at sea. Many of these species can be observed in their cyclic plumage, forming large flocks out at sea during winter.

Sea ducks face various threats, both on land and at sea. Their habitat is being degraded and lost on land, making them vulnerable due to the silting of rivers caused by deforestation, soil erosion, mining, and farming. At sea, the ducks are exposed to dangers such as oil spills, entanglement in fishing lines, overfishing, and climate change.

Sea ducks hold a crucial role in our world’s biodiversity, thanks to their unique adaptations to marine life and their significant contribution to the ecosystem. However, they are up against numerous challenges that necessitate urgent conservation efforts.

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