Common Eiders are flying in from the sea daily for their annual reunion at the Blue Hill Reversing Falls. If the past is prologue, there soon will be about 500 of them wintering in this usually ice-free part of the Bay.
Common Eiders are our largest native ducks, growing up to 28 inches in body length. The can fly up to 70 miles per hour, but we see them mostly floating offshore in large white-and-black (male) and brown (female) “paddlings.” When the tide is changing, these ducks will stream into the Falls’ fast water and dive for their meals there.
These big ducks completely disregard Emily Post’s rules of etiquette when gorging on crustaceans and mollusks. They eat Blue Mussels and clams whole, then let their gizzards crush the shells. They get fastidious with large crabs, though: they remove the claws and legs before swallowing the live body whole. They aren’t good dinner guests. (Blue Hill, Maine)
Answering Pete: The Eider holds the crab by a claw or other leg and beats the crab’s body against the water surface until the body breaks off; it then quickly grabs the floating crab and repeats the process with the other appendages. They eat small crabs whole.