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Common Eider Somateria mollissima


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Common Eider pair, male on left, female on right
credit:  Andreas Trepte/CCSA

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Family: Anatidae, Ducks and Geese view all from this family

Description ADULT MALE Has mainly black underparts and white upperparts, except for black cap, lime green nape and pinkish flush on breast. In eclipse plumage, male is mainly a mixture of brown and black, although some white feathering is always visible on back. Bill is yellow, smaller, and broader-based in Atlantic ssp. dresseri than "Hudson Bay" ssp. sedentaria or Arctic ssp. borealis. Note: ssp. v-nigrum from Pacific has orange bill but occurs outside range of this book. ADULT FEMALE Brown with darker barring, plumage affording superb camouflage when bird is nesting. Bill is dark gray. JUVENILE Similar to adult female, but typically shows a pale stripe above eye.

Dimensions Length: 23-27" (58-69 cm)

Habitat Mainly coastal, nesting close to seashore and usually feeding in inshore waters. Favors estuaries and rocky shores, diving for invertebrates, particularly mussels and other mollusks. Some birds are resident while northern populations move south in winter.

Observation Tips Easy to see on northeast rocky shores.

Range Eastern Canada, Alaska, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, Western Canada, New England

Voice Male utters a characteristic, and rather endearing, cooing ah-Whooo. While doing so, head is thrown back in a distinctive manner.

Discussion Bulky sea duck that dives frequently and for long periods. Distinctive even in silhouetteólarge, wedge-shaped bill follows slope of forehead. Highly gregarious for most of year. In summer, several females may band together, accompanied by "creche" of youngsters. In flight, male looks black and white, while female can look uniformly dark in poor light. Except during summer molt, sexes have strikingly dissimilar plumages. Three of the four North American subspecies occur in the region covered by this book.