(Flock of Common Eider Ducks (Somateria mollissima) seen on a recent trip to Iceland).
We have a few specimens of the Common Eider Duck in the collection and they are an interesting bird.
They breed in Arctic and northern regions and the females line their nests with the soft down feathers from their chests as it is very warm and has excellent insulating properties. After the ducklings have fledged the down from the nests can be harvested and goes to make highly prized eiderdown duvets, pillows and coats - it is so highly prized that it is worth more than its weight in gold.
(Male Common Eider Duck (Somateria mollissima) in Leeds Museums & Galleries collection).
Common Eider Ducks eat crustaceans and molluscs and particularly favour mussels, which are eaten whole and then crushed in the gizzard. The first (bad quality) picture was taken right next to a rocky shore and soon after nearly the whole group dived at the same time whilst foraging under the water. Females usually return to the same place that they were hatched and they sometimes lay eggs in the nests of related individuals, whilst after hatching ducklings may be looked after in a crèche. Their call has been likened to that of old women gossiping!