As you might expect, sea ducks are ducks that have adapted to a life at sea. All of them are diving ducks, with some species capable of reaching depths of 200’.
Alaska supports 100% of the U.S. breeding populations of several northerly species of sea ducks including King Eiders, Spectacled Eiders, Steller’s Eiders, Long-tailed Ducks, and Black, White-Winged, and Surf Scoters.
Utqiagvik is the most reliable place to see King, Spectacled, and Steller’s Eiders as well as Long-tailed Ducks.
All four of these species were on my bucket list. Fortunately, I was not disappointed.
The most abundant diving duck in the high Arctic is the Long-tailed Duck. Long-tailed Ducks breed along the Arctic coast and over-winter at sea as far south as South Carolina and Washington.
King Eiders visit land only during the breeding and nesting season. Otherwise, they will remain in frigid waters during the winter, staying as far north as the open sea water will allow.
The Spectacled Eiders also come ashore during the breeding and nesting season. During the winter months, they may be found near the coastline but are often far offshore, living along edges and openings of floating pack ice.
Unlike the other two eiders, the Spectacled Eider winters mostly in lagoons and coastal bays along the Aleutian Islands.
All three eiders rely on the high Arctic for their nesting grounds. As you might expect, the vulnerability status due to climate change is high for all three species. Long-tailed Ducks have a moderate vulnerability status but their population is also declining. I hope we can act fast enough to address climate change to keep these species from becoming extinct.