Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Common Eider - Somateria mollissima
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General Comments There are perhaps four to five times as many records of the Common Eider in the state as for the King Eider, even though the first record for Common Eider in the state came after the last edition of the "Birds of North Carolina" (Pearson et al., 1959) was published! Its status was not overly different from that of the King Eider through the mid-1990's, though slightly more regular, it being a very rare to rare winter visitor, strictly to coastal areas. However, since about 1995, there has been no drop-off in records, and perhaps there has been an increase in recent winters, if only for more birders combing coastal areas in the winter season. And, there is no preponderance of records for the northern coast, as with the King; the Common is reported as often from Carteret (such as Fort Macon SP) and New Hanover (such as the jetties at Wrightsville Beach) as it is from the northern half of the coast. Its favored habitats are identical to the King's -- inshore ocean, especially around jetties and piers, as well as the vicinity of inlets, occasionally into the sounds and bays. Unlike with the King, there have been occasional sightings of adult males in North Carolina, though over 95% of the reports are of females and immature males.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Winter visitor, with records increasing in recent years. Rare along the entire coast (though no records from Currituck), being most often seen in the vicinity of jetties and piers (and thus somewhat local). One semi-Tidewater record: one on Pamlico Sound next to mainland Hyde near White Plains, 29 Dec 2012. No inland records (i.e., away from tidal water). Generally early Nov to mid-Apr, though there are scattered summer records, including a few oversumming. Most unusual in number and season were 6 seen at Beaufort (Carteret) from spring to at least 20 Jun 2021, with 2 still there on 16 Jul 2021. Peak counts: 18, Beaufort Inlet (Carteret), 8 Mar 2021; 12, in flight off the end of Jennette's Pier in Nags Head (Dare), 16 Jan 2017; 10, Kitty Hawk, 18 Dec 2010; 9, Bodie-Pea Island CBC, 28 Dec 2000; 9, Duck (Dare), 17 Jan 2021; 9, two sites in the Morehead City (Carteret) area, 27 Apr 2021 and 15 May 2021.
Piedmont No records.
Mountains No records.
Finding Tips You should carefully check around jetties, piers, and bridges. Also check the Oregon Inlet groin and the base of the Bonner Bridge at the inlet, as well as just inside the inlet itself. Other places worth checking are piers such as Avon and Rodanthe, groins at the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, and jetties at Fort Macon SP and Wrightsville Beach. Jennette's Pier at Nags Head and Johnnie Mercer's Pier at Wrightsville Beach are quite long and are good places to spend a few hours of wintertime scoping for this species as well as other rare oceanic birds.
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Attribution LeGrand[2023-03-02], LeGrand[2022-02-08], LeGrand[2021-11-07]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.