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Birds, Wildlife and Gardening

Eider ducklings!

Saturday 15th May comments: The cute factor has just increased on the Isle of May as the first Eider ducklings are now present on the islands loch (the first hatched on 9th May). Eider ducks are very special seaducks; which can live for about 20-25 years and are the largest of all the ducks in Europe 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 (including along the paths and roads) and generally have a clutch of 4-6 eggs. The main nesting period is from late April-May and the first eggs were discovered on 19th April this year (later than normal). The females will sit tight on the nest for the entire duration of 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 (or in some cases the islands loch). 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. However eventually all adults and young will move off towards the nearby coastlines where chicks will be raised. Predation by large gulls is one of the main threats to the youngsters.   

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