The male Spectacled Eider in breeding plumage is a striking sight, with dark body, white back, and bright yellow-orange bill. The male’s lime-green head has circular white eye patches, which gives the species its name. The female is plain brown, as is the male during non-breeding season. In both sexes, the facial feathers extend down to the nostrils, a characteristic not found in the other eiders.
It was not until the mid-1990s that the wintering grounds for this species were discovered with the help of satellite transmitters. The population in western Alaska is particularly threatened, and has suffered a 96% decline there since the 1970s.
Oil exploration in Alaska has reduced available habitat, and oil spills pose a constant threat. Lead poisoning may also be an important cause of mortality to this striking bird. The Spectacled Eider has been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, so is protected within the United States, although some hunting still occurs in Russia.