©Mark Hamblin/2020VISION


Scientific name: Somateria mollissima
The eider is a large seaduck, famed for its soft, downy feathers that are not only used by the bird to line and insulate its nest, but also by humans to stuff our quilts and pillows. It nests around the northern coastline of the UK.

Species information


Length: 55-60cm
Wingspan: 94cm
Weight: 2.2kg
Average lifespan: 8 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Amber under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015). Listed as Near Threatened on the global IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

When to see

January to December


Eiders are relatively large seaducks that nest in colonies around the coasts of northern UK, and as far south as Walney Island in Cumbria. Once hatched, the chicks often gather together in a large 'crèche' looked after by a number of females.

How to identify

The male eider is a black-and-white duck, with a pale green patch at the back of the head, pinkish breast and pale yellow-grey bill. The female is greyish-brown with delicate barring.


A common nesting bird around the coasts of Scotland and northern England, the eider winters all around the coast.

Did you know?

Female eiders line their nests with soft feathers, or 'down', from their breasts. These feathers were so prized for stuffing pillows and quilts, that the eider nearly became extinct in the 19th century.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, researchers, politicians and local people towards a Living Seas vision, where coastal and marine wildlife thrives alongside the sustainable use of the ocean's resources. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust.