Kingdoms / Animalia / Craniata / Aves / Anseriformes / Anatidae / Polysticta / Species
< > Polystica stelleri - Steller's eider (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)
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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

Siberian eider
Little eider
Steller's duck
Scheckente (German)
Eider de Steller (French, Spanish)
Eider menor (Spanish)
Eidero de Steller (Spanish)
Stellers Eider (Dutch)
Alförrädare (Swedish)
Heniconetta Stelleri

Names for newly-hatched

Duckling, downy.

Names for non-breeding males or other colour-phases


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Species Author

Debra Bourne

Major References

B1, B2, B3, B6, B8, B19, B25, B26.

Aviculture references:
B7, B8, B29, B30, B40, B94, B129
D1, D8

Other References

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TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques

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Aviculture Information


General information:
  • Seaducks are generally winter-hardy and sociable. They are preferably kept on a large area of clean, cold, deep water, at least some of which (preferably half the area) should be more than 60cm and preferably more than1m deep. As with other diving ducks, most species are relatively ungainly on land and ponds should have shallow sloping banks. Some cover along the pond edges will generally be appreciated. Preferred nesting sites vary greatly within this group, from open ground nesting to thick vegetation and tree holes.
  • Diets of grain, pellets fish and seafood may be used, also bread. These ducks generally need a higher-protein diet than most waterfowl species and high-protein pelleted diets specifically designed for seaducks are now available, although supplementation with fish may still be important particularly for breeding.
  • Feeding in troughs containing stones may avoid the development of overgrown bills. Provision of salt water may decrease the incidence of fungal and other infections.
  • Ducklings may be given high-protein starter crumbs and live food, and provided with access to deep water for swimming from an early age.
  • Eiders should be provided with clean, deep, cold water, with ice-free water available in winter, and may be best kept as flocks rather than as individual pairs. They will eat large quantities of fish if it is offered. They are prone to Foreign Body Ingestion while searching for grit, and are also susceptible to heat stress and to Aspergillosis.

(B7, B29, B30, B40, B94, B129, D1)

Species-specific information:

  • Steller's eiders are rarely kept and have been bred extremely rarely in captivity. Clear water should be provided. Close ground cover should be available for nesting, with egg laying expected mainly end of May to end of June.

(B8, B29, B129)

Aviornis UK Ringing Scheme recommended average ring size: K 10.0mm (D8).

Management Techniques

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External Appearance (Morphology)

Measurement & Weight

Length 17-19 inches 43-48cm (B3, B1).
Adult weight General Average about 860g, maximum 1kg (B1, B2, B3); mean 1.9 lbs. (B8).
Male --
Female --
Newly-hatched weight --
Growth rate --

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Adult Bill Male Slate-grey (B3, B25)
Variations (If present) --
Eyes (Iris) Male Red-brown (B3, B25)
Variations(If present) Brown (B3, B25)
Juvenile Bill Slate grey (B3, B25)
Eyes (Iris) Brown (B3, B25)

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Adult Male --
Variations (If present) --
Juvenile --

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Adult Male Head white with small patch around eye black, indistinct spot in front of eye pea-green and plush area on back of head pea-green, chin, throat and neck collar black, lower neck and central upperparts glossy purple-black, with sides of mantle white, scapulars elongated, pointed, blue-black with white edges. Ventral area, tail and tail coverts glossy black, flanks cream-buff, deepening to breast and abdomen cinnamon-buff, with small black spot either side of breast. Wing coverts white, primaries and their coverts blackish, secondaries glossy purple-blue, tips white. (B2, B3, B8, B25).
Variations (If present) Female:- Head dark red-brown indistinct white eye-patch, body dark red-brown, wing dark red-brown, greater coverts white-tipped, secondaries glossy blue-purple with white tips: blue-purple speculum with white borders in front and behind. (B2, B3, B8, B25).

Eclipse:- similar to female, but white mottling head and breast, retains white upperwing coverts (B2, B3, B25).

Juvenile Similar to female, paler grey-brown, underparts reddish, mottled, wing dull and little or no white tipping. (B3, B25).

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Newly-hatched Characteristics

General: Upperparts dark brown, underparts grey-brown, buff line around and running back from eye, pale grey chin and grey tinge sides of head (B1, B2, B6, B8) .
Bill: Black, nail brown (B2, B6, B8).
Feet: Dark grey (B2, B6).

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Reproductive Season

Time of year Begins June/July (B1, B20.
No. of Clutches One (B2).

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Nest placement and structure

On the ground, near water, exposed or concealed in vegetation. Mound of grass with grass, moss, lichen and down lining (B1, B2, B3, B8, B26).

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Egg clutches

No. of Eggs Average 6-8 (B1); 7-8 (B3).
Range 7-9 (B8); 5-10 (B1).
Egg Description Pale yellow, pale olive-buff or olive-green; size: 59x41mm, weight: 58g (B3, B8).

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Unknown, probably about 26 days (B8).

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Unknown, probably 44-45 days (B8).

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Sexual Maturity

Males Three years old (B1).
Females Three years old (B1).

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Feeding Behaviour

Adults Mainly dive, also dabble on surface, head-dip and up-end in shallows (B1, B25, B26). In large flocks (moulting and wintering areas), synchronised diving noted (B2).
Newly-hatched --

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Parental Behaviour

Nest-building Solitary nests or in small groups, built by female (B1, B2).
Incubation By female (B2).
Newly-hatched Tended by female; broods may merge (B2, B8)

May be abandoned before fledging, female departing to moult (B8).

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Social Behaviour

Intra-specific Sociable, often in flocks, large (thousands) on wintering areas (B2, B3, B8, B25, B26).
Inter-specific Sometimes found with oldsquaw, also seen flying with murres, pigeon guillemots, horned puffins (B8).

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Sexual Behaviour

Pairs formed late winter and spring, males leave females once incubation starts (B8, B25, B26).

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Predation in Wild

Gulls and jaegers (B3, B8).

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Activity Patterns

Roost communally, mainly at night, also loaf and rest in day (B2).
Circadian Mainly feed in daytime, and on seacoasts maximum foraging at low tide (B2, B8).

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Natural Diet


Crustaceans, molluscs, aquatic insect larvae, other invertebrates, small fish; also pondweeds, eelgrass (B1, B2, B3, B8, B26).

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Range and Habitat

Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)


Arctic coasts of northern Eurasia and west and north Alaska: eastern Siberia (Taymyr Peninsula) and west and northern Alaska south to St Lawrence Island, occasionally west to extreme north of Norway (B1, B19).

Migrates to winter in southern Bering Sea (Alaska, Kamchatka, Aleutian Islands, Kuriles Islands), west to Northern Norway, southern Baltic Sea, Netherlands, Pacific coast to southern British Columbia (B1, B19)

Occasional and Accidental Stragglers to many parts of Northern Hemisphere, including Scotland (B1)


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Breeds inland on Arctic tundra, by ponds, lakes, bogs and streams. Found on seacosts during migration (B1, B2, B3, B19, B25, B26)

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Intraspecific variation


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Conservation Status

Wild Population -

Population appears to be decreasing although still numerous (B8)

CITES listing --
Red-data book listing Vulnerable.
Threats Potential great risk from oil spills, due to flocking habits (B1).

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Captive Populations

Rare in collections.

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