by Martin Garner
Eiders are stunning – anyday. Recent years occurrence of birds with sails and orangey bills pointing to Arctic breeding ‘borealis’ and the very distinctive male Dresser’s Eider, have added value to our studies. Some birds seem distinctive enough. Others raise yet more questions…Answer? Document ss well as possible!
Seahouses, Northumberland, April 2013
The sails on this bird caught the attention of Jonathan Farooqi last April 2013. He got some beautiful photographs which also showcase a stunning bill. My reason for flagging up this one is, despite lots of ‘sailed Eiders’ being reported, few I think look like this, I would call this as good as you can get for a borealis. Others from the range of borealis can be a little less impressive, but yellowish bill with obvious orange basal half (the colour of a ripe orange that is!) and narrow frontal process ending in almost pointed tip. Ideal!
Notice the vague impression of the leg colour seems to match the vivid bill tones.
all photos above Jonathan Farooqi. Seahouses, Northumberland, April 2013. The sails on this bird are prominent. Some an be more impressive even than this with very pointed peak, and deep curved rear edge. Bear in mind these feathers will be 9 plus months old and a little worn.
Curiously >>>THIS BIRD<<< , a bit of a looker, but less on the sail front and broader frontal lobes was also at Seahouses back in May 2008. Could it be the same, with frontal lobes more or less swollen?
Flamborough, Fog Station, 1st February 2014
This bird swam below 3 of us yesterday morning. First view head on and it seemed to show remarkable looking frontal lobes, broader throughout and longer than almost any nominate mollissima type Eider I have ever seen. The boys concurred. With an orange tone to boot in low early sunlight (which soon muted in duller light) it also has a very thin ‘loral’ line between the frontal lobes and white of the face. The ‘V’ at the top of the lobes was very shallow. It kind of said “maybe dresseri genes”. But no green under the black cap, no sails and no real ‘dresseri head shape’ , despite sometime straight lower edge to black cap and peaked forecrown.
It appears to be a 3cy (2nd winter) male. The tertials appear to not be white and are not connecting the white upperparts plumage to the round white rear flank patch. This could juts be a European drake with exceptionally excited frontal lobes. I have just never seen one quite like it. So…
“Anyone with a photo of an Eider matching this in February in either Europe or North America?”
3cy (2nd winter) male Eider, Flamborough, East Yorkshire, 1st Feb 2014 by Martin Garner
I am hoping we see it again for more and closer study. Finally to North America:
Cape Cod, Massachusetts January 2014
with Keenan Yakola
I am a birder from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I have read that you have had a lot of experience identifying northern Common Eiders. I was wondering if you could give me your opinion of these two birds. Any input would be greatly appreciated. Photos have been attached to this email. Let me know if you have any questions about my sightings.
Thanks in advance,
What do you think about Keenan’s birds? Here are my musings.
This is a tricky subject when it comes to females as you probably realise. I have also not looked sufficiently at females of dresseri and borealis to have a fulsome view of the subject. With that in mind these are the two most likely taxa for your area, the first photograph above seems to have quite narrow frontal processes running up to the eye. In that regard I suppose it’s a candidate female borealis. However the bird still looks slightly odd to me in terms of head shape and plumage tones. So I would want to explore variation in dresseri before being sure.
The second bird above has rather broad rounded frontal processes for a female Eider and I would be pretty confident that this is a female dresseri.
Hope that helps.
This one taken at Corporation Beach in Dennis, Ma. on 30th January 2014. Leading rustier coloured bird has some rounding to frontal process and maybe a dresseri. The greyer bird at the back maybe the other taxa…
Some might argue it would be better if they just stayed asleep… With grateful thanks for interesting correspondence and above photos to Keenan Yakala
Thanks to Richard Millington and Chris Batty for v. helpful chats.