Dunter

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Part or all of this article has been imported from the 1911 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported text may be significantly out of date, and any more recent developments may be completely missing
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Shetland Birds
Shetlopedia.com - Shetland Birds - Dunter (Eider Ducks) at Skaw Beach in Unst.jpg
Common Name: Eider Duck
Shetland Name: Dunter
Scientific Name: Somateria mollissima
Norwegian Name: Ærfugl
Swedish Name: Ejder
Icelandic Name: Æðarfuglar
Faroese Name: Æða/Tunna
German Name: Eiderente
Dutch Name: Eidereend
French Name: Eider à duvet
Gaelic Name: Tunnag/Lach Lochlannach
Best Places: Good places to watch include round Jarlshof and Scatness and Unst especially for tourists.
Best Time:
Also known as "St Cuthbert's duck"


The dunter, also known as dunter goose, or eider (Somateria mollissima) is a type of large marine duck. It is to be found around the sea shore, including rocky coasts.

The bird was especially prized for its warm feathers which were used in pillows and bedding. The French name, "eider à duvet", reminds us of their use in both eiderdowns and duvets.

Faroese has two names for the dunter, the æða (obviously cognate with eider) and tunna (which is a Gaelic loanword<ref>Tunnag means a domestic duck in modern Gaelic. "Lach lochlannach" - Nordic duck is the current name for the eider itself.</ref>) and which appears to be cognate with the Shetlandic "dunter".

This bird generally frequents low rocky islets near the coast, and in Iceland and Norway has long been afforded every encouragement and protection, a fine being inflicted for killing it during the breeding-season, or even for firing a gun near its haunts, while artificial nesting-places are in many localities contrived for its further accommodation. From the care thus taken of it in those countries it has become exceedingly tame at its chief resorts, which are strictly regarded as property, and the taking of eggs or down from them, except by authorized persons, was severely punished by law. Generally the eggs and down were taken at intervals of a few days by the owners of the "eider-fold," and the birds are thus kept depositing both during the whole season; but some experience is needed to ensure the greatest profit from each commodity. Every duck is ultimately allowed to hatch an egg or two to keep up the stock, and the down of the last nest is gathered after the birds have left the spot.

In appearance the eider is somewhat clumsy, though it flies fast and dives admirably. The female is of a dark reddish-brown colour barred with brownish-black. The adult male in spring is conspicuous by his pied plumage of velvet-black beneath, and white above: a patch of shining sea-green on his head is only seen on close inspection. This plumage he is considered not to acquire until his third year, being when young almost exactly like the female, and it is certain that the birds which have not attained their full dress remain in flocks by themselves without going to the breeding-stations.

The nest is generally in some convenient corner among large stones, hollowed in the soil, and furnished with a few bits of dry grass, seaweed or heather. By the time that the full number of eggs (which rarely if ever exceeds five) is laid the down is added.

The story of the drake's furnishing down, after the duck's supply is exhausted is a fiction. He never goes near the nest. The eggs have a strong flavour, but are much relished by both Icelanders and Norwegians. In the Old World the eider breeds in suitable localities from Spitsbergen to the Farne Islands off the coast of Northumberland where it is known as St Cuthbert's duck. Its food consists of marine animals (molluscs and crustaceans), and hence the young are not easily reared in captivity.

The eider of the New World differs somewhat, and has been described as a distinct species. Though much diminished in numbers by persecution, it is still abundant on the coast of Newfoundland and in Greenland.

References

This article contains text from the article eider in the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica <references/>

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