• Male
  • Female

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Common Eider

Somateria mollissima
The swans, geese and ducks are mid-sized to large birds most commonly found on or near water. Most have plump bodies, long necks and short wings. Most feed while on the water, diving or merely tilting their bodies so that their heads and necks are submerged to search for fish, plants and invertebrates. Washington representatives of the order all belong to one family:
The waterfowl family is represented in Washington by two distinct groups—the geese and swans, and the ducks. Whistling-ducks are also considered a distinct subfamily, and, although they have not been sighted in Washington in many years, Fulvous Whistling-Ducks have been recorded historically in Washington and remain on the official state checklist. All members of the waterfowl family have large clutches of precocial young. They hatch covered in down and can swim and eat on their own almost immediately after hatching.

    General Description

    The largest duck in the northern hemisphere, the Common Eider is distributed around the Arctic and sub-Arctic in the Old World as well as the New World in several races or subspecies that show considerable geographic variation. The bulky form, elongated head, and long, sloping bill are distinctive of all races. The race that inhabits eastern Siberia, Alaska, and western Canada (S.m. v-nigrum) is the largest of all and has sometimes been described as a separate species, the Pacific Eider. Males are basically black-and-white with an orange bill; in breeding plumage they are more extensively white and show a greenish wash on the cheek and nape. Females are plain brown and finely barred, with gray bills. The bills of both sexes are feathered at the base.

    The Pacific Eider retreats southward only minimally in winter; hence it is rarely seen south of the Gulf of Alaska. Washington has two accepted records, both quite recent: Port Angeles (Clallam County) in August 2004, and Tatoosh Island (Clallam County) in April 2005. British Columbia has four records. Oregon has none so far, while the first (and only) California record occurred in July 2004.

    Revised June 2007

    Federal Endangered Species ListAudubon/American Bird Conservancy Watch ListState Endangered Species ListAudubon Washington Vulnerable Birds List

    View full list of Washington State's Species of Special Concern