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Eiders (/ˈ.dər/) are large seaducks in the genus Somateria. The scientific name is derived from Ancient Greek somatos "body" and erion "wool", referring to eiderdown.[1]

Somateria spectabilis.jpg
King eider in breeding plumage
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Anseriformes
Family: Anatidae
Subfamily: Merginae
Genus: Somateria
Leach, 1819
  • 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 quilts—they 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.[2]

The call of the duck has been likened to sound of "surprised pantomime dames, or even the comedian Frankie Howerd".[3]


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. ^ Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 359. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4. 
  2. ^ Driver, Peter (1974). In Search of the Eider. Saturn Press. ISBN 0904196003. 
  3. ^ "BBC Radio 4 - Tweet of the Day, Eider". 9 July 2015. Retrieved 9 July 2015.