The common eider: a distinctive seaduck
An emblematic bird for Duvetnor, this large sea duck found typically in nordic waters is omnipresent in the Lower Saint-Lawrence. From April to June, Common Eiders nest in colonies on islands that can support several hundreds to a few thousands breeding pairs.
Most males leave the islands at the end of Spring to molt further downstream in the estuary and the Gulf or along the Atlantic coast. Meanwhile, females take care of the newly-hatched young. Although, their brownish plumage is less elegant that the bright and colorful plumage of their male counterparts, their unique behavior makes them as interesting. In June, large groups of ducklings accompanied by a few females referred to as crèches are found all along the shores of Île aux Lièvres. Duvetnor and its partners have prepared the first Québec Management Plan for the Common Eider to insure the protection of eider habitats and to promote population growth.
Eiderdown: the eiders contribute to their own protection!
Female eiders remove some of their breast feathers to expose the warm and vascularised skin of the brood patch to their eggs. They line their nests with this down to protect the four to six eggs that they lay. Eiderdown has unique properties due to its extraordinary cohesion and elasticity that have been recognised by Icelanders for over a millennium and for at leat three centuries by the first inhabitants of New France.
Today, eiderdown is only harvested in few regions of the world. In the Saint-Lawrence estuary, Duvetnor operates this activity by following a strict regulation that was initially proposed by Duvetnor administrators to the federal government.
In spring, Duvetnor staff and volunteers visit each colony once towards the end of incubation to collect a portion of down in each nest. The down is then cleaned and sterilised by Duvetnor employees who have developed over the years very specialised techniques. The down is sold to wholesale companies that supply quilt (comforter) and outdoor wear manufacturers. Profits made from eiderdown has allowed Duvetnor to purchase, protect and enhance several islands of the Lower Saint-Lawrence and to maintain an ecotourism program. This activity also yields detailed scientific information about the status of the population that is used by biologists to manage the species and its habitat.
This sustainable harvest establishes a unique partnership between humans and a wildlife species: in exchange of this outstanding natural product, humans insure the protection of the eider breeding habitats. If you want to learn more about eiderdown harvest, you can download Eiderdown – Characteristics and Harvesting Procedures prepared by Duvetnor.