The Common Eider (pronounced /?a?.d?r/) is both the largest of the four eider species and the largest duck found in Europe and in North America (except for the Muscovy Duck which only reaches North America in a wild state in southernmost Texas). This sea-dcuk measures 50 to 71 cm (20 to 28 in) in length, weighs 0.81 to 3.04 kg (1.8 to 6.7 lb) and spans 80-110 cm (31-43 in) across the wings. It is characterized by its bulky shape and large, wedge-shaped bill. The male is unmistakable, with its black and white plumage and green nape. The female is a brown bird, but can still be readily distinguished from all ducks, except other eider species, on the basis of size and head shape. The species is often readily approachable. Drakes of the European, eastern North American and Asia/western North American races can be distinguished by minor differences in plumage and bill colour. Some authorities place the subspecies v-nigra as a separate species.


Habitat and Distribution

The Common Eider is distributed over the northern coasts of Europe, North America and eastern Siberia. It breeds in Arctic and some northern temperate regions, but winters somewhat farther south in temperate zones, when it can form large flocks on coastal waters. It can fly at speeds up to 113 km/h (70 mph).


Feeding

This species dives for crustaceans and molluscs, with mussels being a favoured food. The eider will eat mussels by swallowing them whole; the shells are then crushed in their gizzard and excreted. When eating a crab, the Eider will remove all of its claws and legs, and then eat the body in a similar fashion.


Breeding

The eider's nest is built close to the sea and is lined with the celebrated eiderdown, plucked from the female's breast. Eiders are colonial breeders. They nest on coastal islands in colonies ranging in size of less than 100 to upwards of 10,000-15,000 individuals.


Calls and Songs

The drake's display call is a strange almost human-like `ah-ooo,` while the hen utters hoarse quacks.