The common eider (Somateria mollissima) consists of five subspecies; four are found in North America (Palmer 1976). Six management populations of common eiders have recently been defined in eastern Canada and the United States (Reed and Erskine 1986). The American edier (S. mollissima dresseri), of which three populations are recognized (Reed and Erskine 1986), is the southernmost subspecies and the focus of this paper.
The common eider is a member of the order Anseriformes, family Anatidae, and the tribe Mergini. A seabird of the northern latitudes of the world, the common eider is the largest duck of North America, ranging in weight from 1.2 to 2.8 kg and having a total length from 53.3 to 68.6 cm (Bellrose 1980). The American subspecies averages 2.0 kg and 61.0 cm for males, and 1.5 kg and 57.0 cm for females (Bellrose 1980). The drake is distinctly patterned,, having a white back and breast and a black belly and sides. The smaller female is brown and heavily barred with dark brown. Both sexes have a leathery extension of the bill which forms a Y-shaped frontal shield that reaches almost to the eyes.
Maine, which supports part of the Atlantic population of common eiders (Reed and Erskine 1986), is the only major eider breeding population in the lower 48 States. American eiders are colonial nesters and use a variety of nesting sites, but they prefer relatively small, uninhabited islands (Mendall 1976). The coastal islands of Maine, which are essential to the eider's life cycle, are increasingly subjected to recreation and development, creating potential disturbances to eider breeding colonies. During recent years, aesthetic and sporting interest in eiders has increased. Sea ducks in Maine are experiencing increased hunting pressure. Compared to hunting seasons and bag limits for inland ducks, sea duck seasons and limits are liberal (Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife [MDIFW] 1983).
Additional publication details
Federal Government Series
Habitat Suitability Index Models: American eider (breeding)