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Conservation status: Amber

The UK's heaviest duck, and its fastest flying. It is a true seaduck, rarely found away from coasts where its dependence on coastal molluscs for food has brought it into conflict with mussel farmers. Eiders are highly gregarious and usually stay close inshore, riding the swell in a sandy bay or strung out in long lines out beyond the breaking waves. It is an Amber List species because of its winter concentrations.

Illustrations

Overview

Latin name

Somateria mollissima

Family

Swans, ducks and geese (Anatidae)

Where to see them

In the breeding season, eiders are best looked for from the Northumberland coast northwards and off the west coast of Scotland. They are found in the same areas in winter and also further south on the Yorkshire coast and around the east and south coast as far a Cornwall. Befast Lough is a N Ireland stronghold and some are also found off the Welsh coast.

When to see them

All year round in breeding areas. On coasts to the south of the breeding range, birds can be seen from autumn and stay there for the winter.

What they eat

Shellfish, especially mussels.

Population

EuropeUK breeding*UK wintering*UK passage*
-27,000 pairs63,000 birds-

Distribution

Key

In the UK
Coasts of Scotland, N England and N Ireland (breeding); other coasts (winter)

Audio

Ruud van Beusekom, Xeno-canto

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