Wednesday 20th April comments: Over the Easter weekend we welcomed the news that our Puffins were incubating eggs but also we had other seabirds laying; our first Eider duck eggs were discovered.
Eider ducks are very special seaducks; they can live for about 20-25 years and the species holds the record for the fastest level recorded flight (76.5.km/h) of a bird. The species is the largest of all the ducks in Europe as it measures 50-71cm (20-28 inches) in length, 80–110cm (31–43 inches) across the wings and can weigh up to 3kg in weight. The male is unmistakable in plumage as he is black and white with a green nape. The female is mottled brown as she will incubate the eggs at the nest and therefore needs camouflage to blend in.
Female Eiders nest all over the Isle of May, with the last population count revealed 1,183 nesting females which represents 1.5% of the entire U.K. population. However nationally the picture is a bit more concerning as numbers have fallen by 26% between 1992-2018 according to the latest report on the State of the U.K. birds. This shows how important colonies like the Isle of May have become and why it is important to protect such sites.
The main nesting period is from late April-May and females will sit tight on the nest for the entire duration (on average laying 4-6 eggs) with the incubation period (which is approximately 26 days). During this period females can lose 40% of their body weight and as a result have to be in good condition before nesting. Within 24 hours of the chicks hatching, the females will take the young to sea. Birds will form large crèches as young and adults from a multitude of nests will just mix as young grow bigger and stronger as they head towards independence. So it’s going to be an exciting few months ahead!