BirdForum is the net's largest birding community, dedicated to wild birds and birding, and is absolutely FREE! You are most welcome to register for an account, which allows you to take part in lively discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.
50â€“71 cm (19Â¾-28 in) Male: black and white, green nape, pinkish tinge to breast, large wedge-shaped bill. Female: brown. Eclipse Male: All dark with variable white on wing coverts and long curved tertials (late June to September).
Northernmost populations move south in winter but most populations are dispersive rather than migratory and movements are of no great distance.
Range more extensive in winter, found around coasts of southern Britain and northern France and scarce on lakes in Central Europe and in the northern Mediterranean. Vagrant south to the Azores, North Africa and the western Black Sea.
In winter vacates the northernmost parts of the range in Alaska and Canada, and can be found a little south of the breeding range in both eastern and western North America, for example annual south to Virginia but rarer than that along the rest of the east coast of USA.
Those of the Faroes, Shetland and Orkney are faroeensis, smaller, with greyer bill and shorter frontal lobes in male and darker, more heavily barred plumage in female.
The most northerly breeders in the region, from Iceland, and Greenland to eastern Canada belong to the race borealis with bright orange-yellow bill in male and more rufous plumage in female. Recorded as a vagrant in northern British Isles.
Race v-nigrum is found in eastern Siberia and western North America; it has a black "V" shaped mark on its throat.
dresseri from eastern Canada and USA has been reported as a vagrant in Scotland; it has a broader more rounded frontal shield (bill lobe).
sedentaria is found in central Canada (Hudson Bay).
Breeding is often colonial with colonies on small islands. Arrival of Fox (in Europe: Vulpes vulpes) can lead to decimation or eradication of such breeding colonies. About 8% of the eggs laid in 16% of the clutches in high density colonies in Svalbard were from other females. This is an example of intraspecific brood parasitism. The nest is built close to the sea and is lined with eiderdown, plucked from the female's breast.
Vocal between autumn and spring, but generally silent at other times. Males give a haunting cooing call not unlike that of domestic pigeons. Females less vocal but give a series of throaty gog-gog-gog calls.
BjÃ¸rn, T. H. & Erikstad, K. E. (1994) Patterns of intraspecific nest parasitism in the High Arctic common eider (Somateria mollissima borealis). Canadian Journal of Zoology, 72:1027-1034, https://doi.org/10.1139/z94-139
Carboneras, C., Christie, D.A., Kirwan, G.M. & Sharpe, C.J. (2018). Common Eider (Somateria mollissima). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/52914 on 31 August 2018).
Goudie, R. I., G. J. Robertson, and A. Reed (2000). Common Eider (Somateria mollissima), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.546
Morlan, J. (2009). What, if anything, is "eclipse" plumage. Birding 41(6):50-52.
Pyle, P. (2008) Identification Guide to North American Birds - Part II. Slate Creek Press, Point Reyes Station, California.
Todd, F. S. (1979) Waterfowl - Ducks, Geese & Swans of the World. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York & London.