|Common Eider photo by Sean Sime|
Common Eiders are the largest waterfowl in the Northern Hemisphere. This circumpolar species is typically found along northern seacoasts and nest primarily in the coastal high arctic regions of Canada and Siberia. A diving duck it feeds mainly on aquatic invertebrates, such as crustaceans, mollusks and sea urchins found in shallow waters around submerged ledges and reefs off rocky coastlines. Eider down is famous for its extreme insulating qualities and is used in large amounts in their nest lining. In some places, such as Iceland, the down is harvested commercially at coastal "eider farms," where the wild birds are encouraged to nest in sheltered nooks built for them.
The IUCN Red List recently uplisted their conservation status as "Near Threatened". Historically, by the end of the 19th century market hunting reduced southern population in the Atlantic to near extinction. That population currently is healthy. Arctic populations are declining. Some declines are thought to be the result of overharvesting of aquatic resources, pollution, disturbance and hunting. They are also vulnerable to oil spills.
Their scientific name Somateria mollissima means - Somateria Gr. som# a, somatos body; erion wool. mollissima / mollissimus L. mollissimus very soft (super. from mollis soft).