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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Common Eider Somateria mollissima

The common eider is a heavily built duck that is a common sight on Arctic coasts, where it dives to catch mollusks and crabs, cracking them open with its powerful bill. The females are mottled brown, while the males are mainly black and white, with a pink breast and greenish neck. Common eiders breed in groups, building their nests close to the sea. After the breeding season, they move to more temperate zones in the south of their range for the winter months.

Common Eiders and Eiderdown

To keep the eggs and young warm, female common eiders line their nest with down feathers plucked from their breast. Eiderdown is a superb insulator and has long been used as a filling for clothes and bedding. It is still collected in Iceland, although demand has dwindled following the introduction of synthetic fibers.

Common Eiderzoom image
  • Order Anseriformes
  • Length 20–28 in (50–71 cm)
  • Weight 2–6 lb (1.2–2.8 kg)
  • Habitat Shallow coasts, estuaries
  • Distribution Arctic Ocean, north Atlantic, north Pacific
Common Eider habitat mapzoom image