A flock of Common Eiders are approaching the shoreside of Johannesura, Hernyken, Røst archipelago, as I am recording the atmosphere of this particular shoreside. You can hear their repeated quok-quok, åoos, ho-oohs and a-oohs. There are som gulls and guillemots around and about to, and a Eurasian wren, a raven, and I think the repetitive high pitched pviip sound is a northern wheatear.
Collecting Eiderdown is a very old tradition dating thousands of years back. Eiderdown has been gathered for use in bedding and garments since time immemorial. Archeologists have found remnants from the stone age in Finland indicating the use of down. History tells of a norwegian tax collector who in year ca 890 collected eiderdown amongst other things as tax. In the year 1651, king Christian IV had eider nesting colonies innorthern Norway protected by a royal decree since he was so impressed with the rich birdlife.
Accounts furthermore tell of him having eiderdown bought and sent to Copenhagen for his own comforters. When Iceland got settled by Norse seafarers in the 9th century, these brought with them the tradition of eiderdown harvesting and the eider has always been a protected species in Iceland. Icelanders are today the only ones who have kept this tradition and have in the last decades developed special eiderdown processing technology.The down is very valuable and people used to create small e-hus ( Eider-houses) for the birds to breed in so they could more easily collect the downs. The interdependency between humans and Eiders was sustainable and while Eiders got protection against predators, humas got downs and eggs.
The tradition of eider-downing on Røstis kept alive by Gudrun Jørgensen and her family on Gremsøy, Røst. Here is alink to an article about her:
“The Common Eider is the largest duck found in Europe and in North America (except for the Muscovy Duck which only reaches North America in a wild state in southernmost Texas). It measures 50 to 71 cm (20 to 28 in) in length, weighs 0.81 to 3.04 kg (1.8 to 6.7 lb) and spans 80–110 cm (31–43 in) across the wings. It is characterized by its bulky shape and large, wedge-shaped bill. The male is unmistakable, with its black and white plumage and green nape. The female is a brown bird, but can still be readily distinguished from all ducks, except other eider species, on the basis of size and head shape. This duck’s call is a pleasant “ah-ooo.” The species is often readily approachable.
Eiders are colonial breeders. They nest on coastal islands in colonies ranging in size of less than 100 to upwards of 10,000-15,000 individuals. Female eiders frequently exhibit a high degree of natal philopatry, where they return to breed on the same island where they were hatched. This can lead to a high degree of relatedness between individuals nesting on the same island, as well as the development of kin-based female social structures. This relatedness has likely played a role in the evolution of co-operative breeding behaviours amongst eiders. Examples of these behaviours include laying eggs in the nests of related individuals  and crèching, where female eiders team up and share the work of rearing ducklings.“