Common Eider

The Common Eider (Somateria mollissima) is a common sight along the Icelandic coast. It is called æðarfugl in Icelandic, ederfugl in Danish, ærfugl in Norwegian, ejder in Swedish, Eiderente in German and eider à duvet in French.

There are approximately 200,000 to 300,000 pairs of Common Eider in Iceland, or 930,000 birds in the winter, making it by far the most common species of duck in the country. The Common Eider is strictly protected by law in Iceland. It breeds on islets, low-lying coasts and coastal lakes. Eider down is harvested across Iceland and the main colonies are in the north-west of the country. Around three tons of eider down are collected every year. The sheer amount of down collected gives an indication of the vast size of the Icelandic Eider population. You need 50-60 nests to produce one kilogram of down.

This suggests that the colony of Hafnarhólmi, numbering 1,000-1,200 pairs, should produce 20 kilos of down. In 1990 2,000 pairs bred at Hafnarhólmi but the Eider population has declined in recent years. This trend is reflected in other Eider colonies in eastern Iceland and the harvesting of eider has also dropped correspondingly.