The Common Eider Ducks have caught my attention lately as one Eider hen has three ducklings that she brings to the cove next to Ocean Point Inn to swim and feed. This is the first time I have seen Eider ducklings at Ocean Point. Not long ago the Common Eider was rarely seen, since it was hunted for its meat and eggs to near extinction in the 19th century. Even though stricter laws to protect the Eider were enacted in the 20th century, the Eider population continued to diminish. In 1930 Allan Moses, a taxidermist, convinced J. Sterling Rockefeller to buy Kent Island which had a large colony of nesting Eiders. Six years later Rockefeller sold the island to Bowdoin College for $1.00 and they continue to do extensive research there. Their very special down, one of the lightest and best insulators in the world, also helped save them.
The current population of Eider in Maine is stable The species found along the Maine coast is similar to the ones found in the Arctic.
It is interesting that the Eiders only lay 3 – 5 eggs in their down lined nest compared to the local Mallard Ducks that lay 10-12 eggs. The Eider ducklings are dark brown all over. They eat crustaceans and mollusks so the little ducklings start diving right off. They are amazing to watch. The hen takes care of them and the males swim around in the area. One day I watched the Eider hen try to have her three ducklings join a Mallard hen and her brood of nine. The Mallard pecked at the Eider and pushed her ducklings away. She would not let the Eider ducklings feed near her ducklings.
Here at the Ocean Point Inn we are trying to protect the Mallard Ducks in the pond by asking our guests not to feed them. The ducks become accustomed to being fed and do not fly south in the fall. There is no food for them here in the winter and they cannot survive. Please help us protect them!