Family Ducks, Geese, Swans (Anatidae)

Near Threatened

Common Eider (Somateria mollissima)


French: Eider à duvet German: Eiderente Spanish: Éider común
Other common names: Faeroes Eider (faeroeensis), Northern Eider (borealis), Hudson Bay Eider (sedentaria), Dresser's Eider, Atlantic Eider (dresseri)

Anas mollissima


, 1758,

northern Europe


Closely linked to S. spectabilis, with which it frequently hybridizes in the wild#R. Thought to have hybridized also with Polysticta stelleri#R. Authorship and date of race v-nigrum amended following recent investigation#R. Proposed race islandica (from Iceland) synonymized with borealis. Six subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. m. mollissima (Linnaeus, 1758) – Common Eider – breeds from NW Europe E to Novaya Zemlya; winters S to Atlantic coast of France and N Mediterranean Basin.
  • S. m. faeroeensis C. L. Brehm, 1831 – Faeroe Is, Shetland Is and Orkney Is, and Outer Hebrides (W Scotland).
  • S. m. borealis (C. L. Brehm, 1824) – breeds in Arctic Atlantic from Groswater Bay (Labrador) N to Southampton I and Baffin I, E through Greenland and Iceland to Franz Josef Land; in winter, around coasts of N Atlantic, reaching Gulf of St Lawrence.
  • S. m. sedentaria Snyder, 1941 – Hudson Bay and James Bay region.
  • S. m. dresseri Sharpe, 1871 – breeds in NE North America from Groswater Bay (Labrador) S to Massachusetts; in winter from Gulf of St Lawrence S to Long I, New York.
  • S. m. v-nigrum Bonaparte & G. R. Gray, 1855 – Pacific Eider – New Siberian Is (NE Siberia) E to NW North America; winters Bering Sea and Aleutian Is.
  • Descriptive notes

    50–71 cm; male nominate 1384–2875 g, female nominate 1192–2895 g, male dresseri 1700–2450 g, female dresseri 850–2560 g, male... read more


    Vocal between autumn and spring, but generally silent at other times. Male has characteristic call... read more


    Marine, breeding on islands and spits along low-lying rocky coasts and estuaries; also inland (... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mostly bottom-lying molluscs, also crustaceans, gastropods, echinoderms and other marine invertebrates; occasionally fish; on breeding... read more


    Starts Apr/May or even later in N of range, with first eggs in England and Netherlands in early Apr, but late Apr/early May in Scotland and... read more


    Partially migratory, with initial movement away from breeding grounds by males and immatures to... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Currently considered Near Threatened. Widespread and locally abundant species in suitable habitat throughout wide range. Global population roughly... read more

    Recommended citation

    Carboneras, C., Christie, D.A., Kirwan, G.M. & Sharpe, C.J. (2020). Common Eider (Somateria mollissima). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 24 February 2020).