Somateria spectabilis 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Anseriformes Anatidae

Scientific Name: Somateria spectabilis (Linnaeus, 1758)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English King Eider
Taxonomic Source(s): Cramp, S. and Simmons, K.E.L. (eds). 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Pihl, S.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Ashpole, J, Butchart, S., Calvert, R., Ekstrom, J., Malpas, L.
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The King Eider breeds along the northern hemisphere Arctic coasts of Europe, North America and Asia. It can be found further south during the winter, including the north-east and north-west coast of North America, on Iceland and islands north of the United Kingdom, and on the Pacific coast of Asia to the tip of the Kamchatka Peninsula (Russia) (del Hoyo et al. 1992).

Countries occurrence:
Canada; Denmark; Finland; Greenland; Iceland; Japan; Norway; Russian Federation (Central Asian Russia, Eastern Asian Russia, European Russia); Saint Pierre and Miquelon; Svalbard and Jan Mayen; Sweden; United States
Belarus; Belgium; Czech Republic; France; Germany; Hungary; Ireland; Italy; Kazakhstan; Latvia; Lithuania; Netherlands; Poland; Portugal; Spain; United Kingdom
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:19100000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Continuing decline in number of locations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The global population is estimated to number c.800,000-900,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2015), while the population in Russia has been estimated at c.10,000-100,000 breeding pairs and c.1,000-10,000 wintering individuals (Brazil 2009). The European population is estimated at 37,500-45,500 pairs, which equates to 75,000-91,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015).

Trend Justification:  The overall population trend is decreasing, although one population may be stable, and another has unknown trends (Wetlands International 2015). This species has undergone a small or statistically insignificant increase over the last 40 years in North America (data from Breeding Bird Survey and/or Christmas Bird Count: Butcher and Niven 2007) Note, however, that these surveys cover less than 50% of the species's range in North America. In Europe the population trend is unknown (BirdLife International 2015).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Behaviour This species is fully migratory (del Hoyo et al. 1992). It breeds from late-June onwards (Madge and Burn 1988) usually in well-dispersed (Kear 2005) solitary pairs (del Hoyo et al. 1992), although in some areas it may also form loose colonies (Madge and Burn 1988). Males gather in vast flocks (Johnsgard 1978) between July and August (Snow and Perrins 1998) and undertake moult migrations to favoured marine areas (Johnsgard 1978) often more than a thousand miles from the breeding grounds (Johnsgard 1978). The autumn migration to winter quarters (by both males and females) peaks between August and October, stragglers still leaving the breeding grounds during September (Snow and Perrins 1998). The timing of the return passage in the spring is determined by the ice conditions and the thawing of inland breeding waters (Snow and Perrins 1998). Non-breeding birds generally oversummer south of the breeding range or may remain on the wintering grounds (Madge and Burn 1988). The species is highly gregarious when not breeding (Madge and Burn 1988), migrating in groups of up to c.1,000 individuals (Snow and Perrins 1998) and aggregating into enormous flocks during the moulting period (e.g. 100,000 individuals off the western coast of Greenland (Madge and Burn 1988)) and during the winter (e.g. 15,000 individuals (Johnsgard 1978)). Habitat Breeding The species breeds on dry Artic tundra (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Kear 2005) near freshwater lakes, pools, bogs (del Hoyo et al. 1992), marshes (Kear 2005), streams (Madge and Burn 1988) and small rivers (del Hoyo et al. (1992) on the coast or up to 50 km (rarely up to 100 km) inland (Kear 2005). It shows a preference for shallow fresh waters with emergent vegetation for initial brood rearing, afterwards moving to more saline waters where the young fledge (Snow and Perrins 1998, Kear 2005). Non-breeding The species generally moults in sheltered fjords and bays with high densities of benthic fauna (Kear 2005), and winters at sea on deep offshore waters (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Kear 2005) close to the edge of sea ice or in coastal areas with shallow waters (Kear 2005). Diet Its diet consists predominantly of animal matter such as benthic molluscs, crustaceans, larval insects (del Hoyo et al. 1992) (e.g. caddisflies and midges (Johnsgard 1978)), echinoderms (del Hoyo et al. 1992) (e.g. sea urchins and sand dollars (Johnsgard 1978)) and other marine invertebrates (del Hoyo et al. 1992), although the seeds and the vegetative parts of tundra plants (del Hoyo et al. 1992), sedges and aquatic plants (Kear 2005) may also be taken on the breeding grounds (del Hoyo et al. 1992), and algae, eelgrass Zostera spp. and Ruppia maritima may be taken at sea (Johnsgard 1978). Breeding site The nest is a slight hollow on dry ground and is usually positioned near water (Flint et al. 1984) in the open (Flint et al. 1984, del Hoyo et al. 1992) or under the cover of driftwood (Flint et al. 1984), grass hummocks or rocks (Flint et al. 1984, del Hoyo et al. 1992).

Systems:Terrestrial; Freshwater; Marine
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Unknown
Generation Length (years):9
Movement patterns:Full Migrant
Congregatory:Congregatory (and dispersive)

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The species is threatened by chronic coastal oil pollution (Nikolaeva et al. 2006) and future oil spills (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Kear 2005, Nikolaeva et al. 2006), especially where it forms large aggregations on the sea during the moult period, on migration or in the winter (del Hoyo et al. 1992). The species is also threatened by the degradation of food resources as a result of oil exploration and by human disturbance when moulting and on migration, and is threatened by disturbance from uncontrolled shipping (e.g. oil transportation) on its wintering grounds (Nikolaeva et al. 2006). The population wintering in Greenland is under serious threats from over-exploitation (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Merkel 2004, Kear 2005) (10-20 % of the winter population is killed annually (Kear 2005)) and through being caught and drowned as bycatch in gillnets during the spring migration (Merkel 2004). Utilisation Populations of this species in the high Arctic are subject to high shooting pressures, especially in spring, by indigenous peoples for food (Madge and Burn 1988, Byers and Dickson 2001). This subsistence hunting is likely to be sustainable at current levels (Byers and Dickson 2001).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
Bern Convention Appendix II. CMS Appendix II. There are currently no known conservation measures for this species within its European range.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Strict legislation on oil exploration and transportation is needed as well as protection of key sites. Research into the species's ecology and population dynamics will help future conservation measures.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2016. Somateria spectabilis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22680409A85982676. . Downloaded on 24 September 2018.
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