Monday 14 January 2013

Aging male King Eiders

Thanks to Kevin McLaughlin for pointing out that the Goderich King Eider is in fact not an adult.
It is actually a 2nd winter male King Eider.
Apparently, one of very few full adult male King Eiders in Ontario was in Toronto in March, 2011.
Luckily, I was there for that, and, there was also that 1st winter male King Eider at the same location and time...

Here's the progression for male King Eiders from 1st winter to adult plumage:

The 1st winter male has a pinkish/buffy bill, white breast, and generally dark brown throughout the rest of the plumage.

1st winter in Toronto - March, 2011:

The 2nd winter male looks very much like the adult male. There are a few differences though. When I first saw yesterdays bird I thought it looked "a little dirty" in that there were black markings on the neck and throat area. These weren't very obvious though and the photos I took don't clearly show that. One feature, though, that is quite noticeable is the head shape.
Adult male King Eiders have a large frontal lobe that is outlined with black - the large lobe looks like a protruding forehead. 2nd winter males retain the same head shape as a 1st winter King Eider.

2nd winter in Goderich - January, 2013:

Compare the head shape in the previous photo with the next. There is a distinct difference which should be easily noticeable in the field.

Adult in Toronto - March, 2011:

A neat thing about the King Eider plumage is the protrusions or extensions on the back. These are actually scapular feathers that stick up like sails. The female has this characteristic as well, but to a lesser degree.

1st winter King Eiders have no white in the wings.

1st winter (Toronto, March 2011) in flight:

By the 2nd winter, there is white on the upperwing of the male King Eider.

2nd winter - Photo credit: Christopher Wood.
King Eider (2nd winter male) in flight

The protruding frontal lobe of the adult male King Eider is still noticeable in flight.

adult (Toronto, March 2011) in flight:

Don't forget about that quiz below!