The Common Eider: The Mysterious Creature that Visits North Carolina
Beautiful duck spotting.
The Outer Banks is full of mysterious creatures. And we aren’t just talking about this insane-looking prehistoric fish.
On one particular 10-mile stretch known as Ocracoke Island, there’s one more creature worth scouting: the Common Eider. If you’ve never heard of it, well, that’s because the name is rather deceiving because the Common Eider is indeed, uncommon, in the area.
According to the Ocracoke Observer, the island is one of the best places to try and spot the Common Eider, which often visits for the winter months. The ones that you may spot there are most likely adult females and immature males and females, according to the paper.
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As All About Birds explained, the Common Eider is the largest duck in the Northern Hemisphere. The male Uncommon Eider, it noted, sports stunning bright white, black, and green feathers while the female is more subdued with her brown and white plumage.
Typically, the birds reside along the marine areas of eastern and northern Canada and Alaska, the Ocracoke Observer added. They can also be found in parts of northern Russia, Norway, Scotland, and England. And in the United States, the birds nest and rear their young along the coast of Maine, where they can often be found year-round. However, the further south you go the rarer the sightings become.
If you do spot a Common Eider with its young, you’ll also likely see a few nonbreeding hens alongside it. These, the paper added, are known as “aunts” who help protect the young from predators.
Beyond natural predators, the birds also have to look out for humans. That’s because their down feathers are ultra light-weight and have powerful insulating properties. And that makes them prized in the comforter industry, where they are used to stuff high-end products like this $16,000 comforter and other outerwear goods.
But, fear not, as the birds don’t actually have to be killed or hurt to gather the down. Instead, humans simply approach the nests and gather what they can, leaving both the eggs and parents behind. In its place, Atlantic Seabirds reported, harvesters will construct a new nest lining using “dry grass from the surroundings or hay brought along for the purpose, and the eggs placed back in the nest.” So, if you happen to spot the birds in Ocracoke maybe exchange a few feathers for grass and you too could make a pretty penny off its super soft feathers. Or, just enjoy their rare presence instead.