Bird Species of the World's Boreal Forests


Somateria mollissima
Common Eider


Distinguishing Features - The Common Eider is the biggest eider and the largest of the diving ducks. The black underparts and white back distinguish the male from other ducks. The white head has a black crown and greenish nape. The female is brown with sides that are closely barred in black. The female King Eider is quite similar, but her side bars are chevron-patterned.


Common Eider Strictly oceanic, Common Eiders nest on the islands and coasts of northern Canada, from the Yukon in the west, the southern part of Ellesmere Island in the north, to the eastern and southern Maritimes. It winters in smaller numbers on Hudson's Bay, on the coasts of Newfoundland and from the St. Lawrence estuary to the Maritime Provinces.

The Common Eider is spread out across several islands and nests in very tightly packed colonies in the St. Lawrence estuary. It has the second largest population in eastern North America.


The Diet mainly consists of mussels and herring roe. The blue mussel is the food of choice for this duck. During the 26 days of incubation, the female does not eat.


In the 18th century, the Common Eider was hunted for its valuable down. The population in the St. Lawrence estuary went through a period of steep decline. Strict measures have helped the population to recover and even enabled some regional harvesting. On the other hand, this species always faces the threat of an oil spill in the estuary.

The word "eiderdown" is borrowed from this species and describes a bedcover filled with down gathered from the nests of eider ducks.

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