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Bird Sightings : Hebrides : Eider



Eider female on left, male on right


(Common Eider, Cuddy, Cuddy Duck, Dunter)

Somateria mollissima

Gaelic: Colc, Lach Heisgeir, Lach-lochlainneach

Photographs © Debbie Bozkurt
Stinky Bay - Benbecula - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
13th May, 2006


Our Eider photographs:

Northern eider



  • Eider (Common Eider, Cuddy, Cuddy Duck, Dunter)
  • Somateria mollissima
  • UK: Resident breeder, Winter Visitor. Breeding 31,650 prs. AMBER LIST Winter 80,000 birds (RSPB)
  • WI: Fairly common resident breeder (100-999 breeding pairs) and common winter visitor (regulary seen in good numbers)
  • Breeds: Europe, North America, Siberia. Colonial breeder. Nest is on island & close to the sea and lined with eiderdown, plucked from the female's breast. Females also lay eggs in nests of related individuals. Crèching occurs (female eiders share the work of rearing young)
  • Winters: Europe & USA south of breeding range
  • Habitat: Seacoasts, Tundra ponds, lochs
  • Diet: Feeds by diving or up-ending. Coastal molluscs, especially mussels and other crustaceans on sea-bed
  • Large seaduck (50-71cm). Heaviest UK duck (up to 6lb). Bulky shape. Large wedge-shaped bill. Male black & white plumage (green nape). Female brown bird but ID as Eider by size & head shape. Gregarious. Often stays near shore in a sandy bay or forms long lines out past the breakers
  • Typical lifespan 18yrs. Max recorded age 35yrs 6mths
  • Similar birds: Long-tailed Duck , Shelduck , Northern Eider (very rare)



Eider have a circumpolar breeding distribution. Although some are resident, others migrate up to 1000km south for winter. The UK is at the south of the breeding range, so most of our breeding birds stay or make only a small shift. Some continental birds come in from the east to winter.

Eiders pair up in winter, if a male pairs with a female from another breeding area he will follow her back to her natal area to breed.

Eider are found off most of the sandy shores and in the sounds of the Western Isles thoughout the year. In autumn large flocks of up to 400 birds can occur. Broadbay near Stornoway often has 300 birds in winter, a flock in which *drakes are dominant.

The eider's nest is is lined with eiderdown, which is plucked from the female's breast. Eiderdown was used by man for filling pillows and quilts, and collection of it almost led to species extinction. Nowadays eiderdown is still sometimes used, but it is collected after the ducklings have left the nest.

(*Peter Cunningham Birds of the Outer Hebrides. ISBN 0 906664 00 0)



Common Eider records in the Western Isles

Fairly common resident breeder (100-999 breeding pairs) and common winter visitor (regulary seen in good numbers)
Our Hebridean population is of national importance

On the chart below the darker the shade of blue the more abundant the Common Eider is during a month or the more likely you are to see it.

























(Source: Outer Hebrides Birds Checklist)




Male and female ducks and their collective nouns

Some people use the word duck only for an adult female and drake for an adult male whilst others say hen and drake.

Waterfowl collective nouns (From WIKI):
waterfowl (on water) A raft
waterfowl A bunch of waterfowl
waterfowl (less than 30) A knob
ducks, swimming A paddling of ducks
waterfowl A plump
ducks, idle in water A raft of ducks
ducks, diving A dopping of ducks
ducks, on ground A badelynge of ducks
ducks, flying A flight, plump, or team of ducks
ducks A brace, bunch, flock, skein, sord, string, brace, flush




Other local bird photographs

Sources of information for the bird sightings section

Debbie's online photo album

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