The Lånan archipelago is the kingdom of the eider. The islanders have taken care of the bird, made nests and protected them during the breeding season. In return, the bird has returned every spring and given them down and eggs. An exciting – and little known – culture has developed around the work with nests and down. The islanders’ know that when you give something to the birds, you get something back.
The eider has been kept as a domestic animal along the entire Helgeland coast. It is a “holy bird” that people have protected. The work of making up for the eider and protecting it during the breeding season, has led to a special relationship between animals and humans. The eider returns to the same nest year after year, and becomes an old “acquaintance”.
In February-March, the eider begins to migrate inwards from the sea, and in April it flocks around the islands to nest. The female is localized and returns to previous nesting sites. From May to June the eggs are laid, and for several nights “ea” (she) and “ekallen” (he) go ashore to look for suitable nests. This is a crucial period, because now the bird is extremely shy. When the female bird has found a suitable nest, she makes it clear, while her mate keeps her company. Then the males leave the nesting place, gather in flocks and go out to sea to molt (change plumage). In September they are back again.
Facts about Eider Ducks
The eider belong to a group of diving ducks that feed on fish and deep-sea animals. It normally picks up food at a depth of 10 meters, but can dive all the way down to 40 meters. In May-June, it lays four to five green, camouflage-coloured eggs that it incubates for 25-28 days.
The young leave the nest shortly after they have hatched, and are guarded by their mother and / or other adult females (so-called “aunts”), while they find food themselves. The eider eats little food during incubation and loses a lot of weight. After the eggs have hatched, the female warms the young in the nest for a few days, before taking them down to the water.
Often several litters of the same age can be found in the same flock. As young ducklings, they often stay in the seaweed belt where they can find food (including seaweed fleas) and hide from predators.
The eider can swim with their young up to 20 km to find good feeding areas. The young learn to fly after 65-75 days and become sexually mature when they are 3 years old. The eider can reach an age of 20-25 years, while 10 to 15 years is common.
The eider is very vulnerable to prey when it lies and incubates its eggs, and the young have a dangerous time before they grow up. Mink, crow, raven, black-backed gull, gray gull, otter and sea eagle are some of its natural predators.