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two genera (Somateria and Polysticta) of sea diving ducks. Eiders have a large head, a massive bill, and a short neck. There are four species. Eiders inhabit the coasts and islands of northern Europe, Asia, and North America. The common eider (S. mollissima) and king eider (S. spectabilis) are found near the arctic circle; the common eider also lives on the shores of the North and Baltic seas. The spectacledeider (S.fischeri) inhabits the northeast coast of Siberia and Alaska, and Steller’s eider (P. stelleri) lives in Siberia from the Iamal Peninsula to the Chukchi Peninsula.
The diet of eiders consists of marine invertebrates such as mollusks and small crayfish and, more rarely, algae and berries. Eiders nest on the ground, or, less frequently, on cliffs near the sea; often they nest where they can be protected by hummocks, rocks, or driftwood. A clutch contains four to six eggs, rarely seven or eight. With the beginning of egg laying, the female plucks long gray down from her belly and breast, with which she lines the nest and makes a ridge around its edges. Between 17 and 20 g of down can be collected from a nest. Eiderdown is highly valued as a light and heat-insulating material and is used for making warm clothing for aviators, polar explorers, and mountain climbers. In northern Europe the collecting of down has been carried on for centuries (in the 15-16th century Iceland supplied Holland with down). In the North of the USSR, eiderdown has also been collected for centuries. The common eider is especially valuable, as it settles in colonies and is easily domesticated if it is protected. Hunting eiders is prohibited. There are special preserves in the USSR in the Murmansk Oblast and in Estonia.
REFERENCESPtitsy Sovetskogo Soiuza. Edited by G. P. Dement’ev and N. A. Gladkov. Vol. 4. Moscow, 1952.
Obyknovennaia gaga (Somateria m. mollissima L.) v SSSR: Sb. Tallinn, 1968.