Eiders (/ˈ.dər/) are large seaducks in the genus Somateria. The scientific name is derived from Ancient Greek sōma "body" and erion "wool", referring to eiderdown.[3]

King eider in breeding plumage
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Anseriformes
Family: Anatidae
Subfamily: Merginae
Genus: Somateria
Leach, 1819[1]
  • S. mollissima
  • S. fischeri
  • S. spectabilis

The three extant species all breed in the cooler latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere.

The down feathers of eider ducks, and some other ducks and geese, are used to fill pillows and quiltsthey have given the name to the type of quilt known as an eiderdown.

Steller's eider (Polysticta stelleri) is in a different genus despite its name.[4]

The call of the duck has been likened to sound of "surprised pantomime dames, or even the comedian Frankie Howerd".[5]


ImageScientific nameCommon NameDistribution
S. mollissimaCommon eidernorthern coasts of Europe, North America and eastern Siberia
S. spectabilisKing eidernortheast Europe, North America and Asia
S. fischeriSpectacled eidercoasts of Alaska and northeastern Siberia.

Two undescribed species are known from fossils, one from Middle Oligocene rocks in Kazakhstan and another from the Late Miocene or Early Pliocene of Lee Creek Mine, United States. The former may not actually belong in this genus.


  1. Leach, W.E. (1819). "Zoological Memoranda". In Ross, J.C. (ed.). A voyage of discovery, made under the orders of the Admiralty, in His Majesty's ships Isabella and Alexander, for the purpose of exploring Baffin's Bay, and inquiring into the probability of a north-west passage. London: Longman, Hurst, Reese, Orme and Brown. p. 154.
  2. Jarocki, F.P. (1819). Spis ptaków w gabinecie zoologicznym Królewsko Warszawskiego Uniwersytetu znayduiących się, a podług naynowszego systemu ustawionych (in Polish). Warszawa: nakł. i drukiem Zawadzkiego i Węckiego Uprzywilejowanych Drukarzy i Księgarzy Dworu Królestwa. p. 62.
  3. Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 359. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  4. Driver, Peter (1974). In Search of the Eider. Saturn Press. ISBN 0904196003.
  5. "BBC Radio 4 - Tweet of the Day, Eider". Bbc.co.uk. 9 July 2015. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
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