Common Eider

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Common Eider
Adult drake
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Anseriformes
Family: Anatidae
Subfamily: Merginae
Genus: Somateria
Species: S. mollissima
Binomial name
Somateria mollissima
(Linnaeus, 1758)
Subspecies
  • S. m. mollissima (Linnaeus, 1758)

(European Eider)

(Faeroe Eider)

(North Pacific Eider)

(North Atlantic Eider)

  • S. m. sedentaria Snyder, 1941

(Hudson Bay Eider)

(American Eider)

Green: breeding
Blue: winter/feeding

The Common Eider (Somateria mollissima) is a large sea-duck. They live on the northern coasts of Europe, North America and eastern Siberia. It breeds in Arctic and some northern temperate regions. They winter farther south in temperate zones. There it can form large flocks on coastal waters. It can fly at speeds up to 113 km/h (70 mph).[2]

Description[change | edit source]

The Common Eider is both the largest of the four eider species and the largest duck found in Europe and in North America. It measures 50 to 71 cm (20 to 28 in) in length, weighs 0.81 to 3.04 kg (1.8 to 6.7 lb) and spans 80–110 cm (31–43 in) across the wings.[3][4] It has a bulky shape and large, wedge-shaped bill. The male is unmistakable, with its black and white plumage and green nape. The female is a brown bird. It can be told apart from all ducks, except other eider species, because of size and head shape. This duck's call is a pleasant "ah-ooo". The species is often readily approachable.

This species dives for crustaceans and molluscs, with mussels being a favoured food. The eider will eat mussels by swallowing them whole; the shells are then crushed in their gizzard and excreted. When eating a crab, the Eider will remove all of its claws and legs, and then eat the body in a similar fashion.

Social behaviour[change | edit source]

Small Eider Creche: three adult females over six ducklings at Biddeford Pool, ME

Eiders are colonial breeders. They nest on coastal islands in colonies ranging in size of less than 100 to upwards of 10,000-15,000 individuals.[5] Female eiders often return to breed on the same island where they were hatched. This can lead to a high degree of relatedness between individuals nesting on the same island.[6]

References[change | edit source]

  1. BirdLife International (2004). Somateria mollissima. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 11 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
  2. http://www.thetravelalmanac.com/lists/birds-speed.htm
  3. [1] (2011).
  4. Ogilvie & Young, Wildfowl of the World. New Holland Publishers (2004), ISBN 978-1-84330-328-2
  5. Chapdelaine, G., P. Dupuis and A. Reed. 1986a. Distribution, abondance at fluctuation des populations d’eider à duvet dans l’estuaire et le golfe du Saint-Laurent. Pp. 6–19 in Eider ducks in Canada (A. Reed, ed.). Canadian Wildlife Service Report Series no. 47, Ottawa, ON.
  6. McKinnon, L., H. G. Gilchrist, and K. T. Scribner. 2006. Genetic evidence for kin-based female social structure in common eiders (Somateria mollissima). Behavioral Ecology 17:614-621.