Common Eider – Length: 24 inches, Wing span: 38 inches
Once a major species hunted for markets, the large Common Eider inhabits arctic and near-arctic coastal marine habitats. Common Eiders nest colonially in large groups. In Iceland, they have become almost tame. Farmers protect them from predators, and harvest the eider down from nests in a sustainable way.
Common Eiders dive to depths of around 10 meters. Most dives are less than a minute in duration, but can last up to two minutes as they gather their preferred food consisting of marine invertebrates.
The Common Eider is a large, stocky sea duck with an elongated head shape and large bill. Males and females differ greatly in plumage.
All the following images are © staff photographer Glenn Bartley.
Male Common Eiders are distinctive, and not easily confused with other species. Large, white body with black tail and markings on the side, Sloping yellow bill leads to black crown. Non-breeding season males become mostly dark brownish and resemble the female.
Females are pale to rich brown with darker barring. Juveniles resemble females. The bill shape remains a distinguishing characteristic.
The black belly is obvious in flight. Relatively small wings for a heavy body.
White on back extends onto the wing.
Female in flight. Barred back with rich chestnut coloring. Note the bill and head shape.