SCIENTIFIC NAME: Somateria fischeri
HABITAT: Shorelines, islands and meadows in coastal tundra (summer); pack ice between St. Lawrence and St. Matthew islands in the Bering Sea (winter)
LIFE HISTORY: Spends most of life at sea, returning to land only from mid-May to June to breed. Distinctive white eye patches most prominent in adult males.
THREATS: Oil and gas development in native breeding habitat
FORMER RANGE: Most of coastal Alaska, from Nushagak Peninsula to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
CURRENT U.S. POPULATION: 7,000-8,000 breeding pairs
Large and strikingly beautiful marine diving ducks, "specs" resemble puffins in their shape and unique facial markings. They are true sea ducks that spend most of their lives on the water; they make landfall only to nest on wet coastal tundra.
Spectacled eiders have been in dramatic decline since the 1970s. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists the spectacled eider as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act. However, the government has never declared any critical habitat for eiders under the Endangered Species Act in the Arctic, so leaving the bird's onshore habitat is subject more vulnerable to degradation from oil and gas development.
NRDC is fighting energy development in the Western Arctic Reserve, where the coastal wetlands provide nesting grounds for the spectacled eider and millions of other shorebirds and waterfowl, and is working on a plan to develop new wildlife reserves on Alaska's coastal plains.
Photos: Alaska © PhotoDisc; polar bear © Steve Amstrup, Alaska Image Library, USFWS; spectacled eider © Chris Dau, Alaska Image Library, USFWS; beluga whale © Corbis; yellow-billed loon © Getty Images