Eider Somateria mollissima

The eider duck is characterised by its wedge-shaped bill and bulky shape. Males have a black and white plumage with a beautiful pale green patch at the back of the head, pinkish breast and pale, yellow-grey bill. Females are greyish-brown with delicate barring, but have a similar head shape and size.


Eider ducks are true seaducks, living on the coast and relying on coastal molluscs as their main source of food. Eider ducklings leave the nest as soon as they hatch, but are unable to fly for around 10 weeks. During this time, ducklings will often gather in a large ‘crèche’, where they are protected from predators by several females, who may or may not be related to the ducklings they are protecting.


Length: 55-60cm

Wingspan: 94cm

Weight: 2.2kg

Average Lifespan: 18 years


Classified in the UK as an Amber List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review.


A common nesting bird around the coasts of Scotland and northern England, the Eider winters all around the coast.

When to see

January – December


  • Eider duck nests were traditionally harvested for their ‘Eider Down’ after the eggs had hatched and the chicks left the nest. This soft, fluffy down was used to stuff pillows and quilts.
  • Eiders are the UK’s heaviest and fastest flying species of duck.

Common name


Species name

Somateria mollissima

IUCN Red List status

Near threatened

When to see in Scotland

January – December

Where to see in Scotland

Scottish Wildlife Trust reserves such as Montrose Basin or Loch Fleet.

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