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King Elder

About King Elder

This is a large duck; males in breeding plumage has a bulbous, multicolored head, with a large orange knob at the base of his coral-red bill; a flat crown and nape, pale bluish with a purplish tinge; upper back and rump sides white; back black, with striking, triangular, black, sail-like feathers sticking up from shoulders; lower neck and breast salmon pink, rest of underparts black; wings look all black, but reveal a large white patch on each forewing in flight. Females are rusty brown, mottled with dark bars and crescents.

They nest on the ground, near a pond or other fresh water bodies, ususally among dense vegetation. They make a small hollow lined with down from female’s breast and plant material; incubation 24-29 days.

They are among the most northernly birds; they breed within a few hundred miles of the North Pole. They feed mostly in coastal waters, usually diving to dig mollusks and other marine animals from the seabed with their bills. The bill is also able to crush the prey’s shells.

King Elders nest in isolated pairs, however, if it is not breeding season they are very friendly towards other birds.

The males travel to molt in huge numbers with other males and they do lose their flight feathers, so that they become flightless for a few weeks. They rarely come into contact with humans.