Over the weekend, the birding community in North Dakota was flocking to see what is being called the FIRST EVER recorded record of this sea duck in North Dakota.  The bird was first spotted by Ron Martin of Minot on Thanksgiving, November 25th on Lake Sakakawea.  It's since then been spotted by several birders across the state, including Bismarck's Corey Ellingson.  This very, very rare sea duck is none other than a King Eider.

Corey was kind enough to share this photo of the KING EIDER hen duck with me.  It's one of the most elusive ducks in the world.  Just to see one of these birds normally you would have to fly to places like Nome, Alaska in the springtime or St. Paul, Alaska in January.  Here's one of Corey's photos he sent to me of this hen who is obviously lost.  The picture was taken with a cell through a spotting scope.  The bird was probably a half-mile out as ice covers most of the shoreline.

Corey Ellingson
Corey Ellingson
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This King Eider hen appears to be a young bird. 

Mature females have very distinct white stripes around their speculum feathers.  Still, pretty incredible to see.  Here's another picture of the King Eider hen.

Corey Ellingson
Corey Ellingson
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The question is how did this bird end up in our neck of the woods.

As you know, there are no fences in the sky.  King Eiders normally winter along the Aleutian Islands in Alaska and southern areas of Alaska.  They also sometimes winter along the New England coast, but that is rare.  Most east coast King Eiders winter in places like Greenland or northern Canadian provinces.  A pretty good bet?   This bird was born in the Hudson Bay area of Canada, and instead of flying to the east or west coast, decided to go south and check out North Dakota.  Maybe it was on her bucket list?

This duck's biggest danger in North Dakota might be an owl, hawk, or eagle.

It's very common for these raptors to feist on ducks this time of year.  I've witnessed it myself.  Nature can be cruel.  This photo was also sent to me by Corey Ellingson that was taken by Scott Ray this past weekend of Great Horned Owl taking down another pretty rare duck in North Dakota a White-Winged Scoter.

Scott Ray
Scott Ray
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I've been lucky enough to witness these majestic birds in Alaska before and they certainly are one of the most beautiful ducks in the world.  The drakes have a grey/blue head, with yellow, orange, and red on their bill.  Here's a picture of a King Eider drake.

Avian Flu Fears Prompt Bird Sampling From Remote Alaska Outpost
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
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Yet another oddball out-of-place creature to visit the Peace Garden State.  Pretty awesome.


 

 

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