British wildlife recordings
Somateria mollissima : Eider - Anatidae
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Loch Beag, Scotland: OS Grid Reference(185000,695000)
Williams, Aubrey John
Eider, Somateria mollissima
Calls uttered by an eider recorded on Loch Beag, Scotland. The Eider is Britain's heaviest, fastest and 'softest' duck. The name Eider refers to the Icelandic term given to the quality of the duck's down, which is prized for its softness. The demand for these feathers has resulted in the bird facing heavy persecution in the past although it can now be regularly seen on coasts foraging for its favourite food of shellfish, especially mussels. The male's plumage is a bold design of white, green and black, making it unmistakeable. The female possesses her own beautifully mottled brown plumage, which acts as an effective disguise against predators during the nesting period. For increased security Eiders tend to nest among colonies of gulls and terns, benefiting from the defensive nature of their neighbours. The sweet, comical 'cooing' call of the Eider is a quality that distinguishes it from any other duck. It is a true 'sea duck', feeling at home swimming in large groups through strong surf. Flight is fast, direct and usually just above the water, with parties flying in single file. The Eider is distributed from Northumberland into Scotland and along the northern coast of Ireland. During the winter months they can be spotted further south along the English coast, reaching as far as Cornwall.