South Dakota Birds and Birding - Home Page

Common Eider

Somateria mollissima

Length: 24 to 26 inches Wingspan: 36 to 42 inches Seasonality: Extremely rare visitor
ID Keys: White head with black cap, white back and breast, black sides and tail (male).  Female dark brown with barring.

Common Eider - Somateria mollissimaThe Common Eider is normally a bird of coastal waters of northern North America, although they can be found as far south as New England in winter.  They are almost always found in near-coastal salt water habitats, and only rarely are found on fresh water.  They only rarely are found inland, and The Birds of South Dakota (SDOU, 2001) only lists three occurrences within South Dakota.  A male is pictured on the right, while a female is shown at the bottom of the page.

Habitat: While found throughout the northern parts of North America, they are nearly always found in relatively close proximity to shore, especially near rocky shorelines.  They are only rarely found on fresh water.

Diet: Primarily feeds on mollusks, especially mussels and other bivalves.  Will also eat crustaceans, marine worms, aquatic insects, and small fish.  Occasionally feeds on plant material.

Behavior: Does most of its foraging by diving and swimming underwater after prey items.  Will also sometimes feed in shallow water, acting more like a dabbling duck by tipping its head down and grabbing food on or just below the water's surface.

Breeding: Non-breeder in South Dakota

Song: The male has dovelike cooing in groups of three during courtship. 

Migration: Summers along rocky coastlines throughout the Arctic.  Birds in the southern part of their normal range may not migrate at all in winter, while those in the north generally migrate only relatively short distances to the south in winter.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here for access to an interactive eBird map of Common Eider sightings

Similar Species: King Eider, Spectacled Eider

Conservation Status: Abundant in it's normal range.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Common Eider

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Common Eider"

3) Common Eider

Photo Information: Photo taken on May 25th, 2012 at Acadia National Park in Maine - Terry Sohl


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Range Map - Common Eider
South Dakota Status: Extremely rare visitor, with only a handful of records in the state.