- ORDER: Anseriformes
- FAMILY: Anatidae
A bird of the cold north with a warm reputation, the Common Eider is famous for the insulating quality of its down (typically harvested from nests without harming the birds). Breeding males are sharp white and black, with pistachio green accents on the neck. Females are barred with warm brown and black. These largest of all Northern Hemisphere ducks gather along rocky ocean shores, diving for mussels and other shellfish, which they pry from rocks using long, chisel-like bills. Males court females throughout the year with gentle, crooning calls.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Common Eiders are indeed common in the far north but are rare anywhere south of the mid-Atlantic states. The easiest-to-reach places to look for them include southern Alaska, Atlantic Canada, and New England. Visit rocky, saltwater coasts or look around stone breakwaters, jetties, or bridges that provide habitat for mussels, their main prey. During spring migration, eiders occasionally gather in flocks on brackish or fresh water, especially when waiting for thaw in their nesting grounds farther north.
- Éider Común (Spanish)
- Eider à duvet (French)
- Cool Facts
- Common Eiders pluck down feathers from their breast to create a toasty warm nest. For more than 1,000 years people have used precious eiderdown to keep warm—gathering the down from empty nests. In Iceland, some eider "farmers" build small wooden huts for the birds to nest in, mimicking the sheltered natural nest sites the birds often use.
- Mother Common Eiders lead their young to water, often accompanied by nonbreeding females that help protect the chicks. Broods come together to form "crèches" of up to 150 ducklings. Once formed, a crèche tends to stay together throughout the brood rearing period, although some of the adult females may leave.
- The oldest recorded Common Eider was a male at least 22 years, 7 months old when he was found in eastern Canada.