Released: Two Common Eider Ducks with an Uncommon Story

Another Wild Care Cape Cod success story...
Released! In Provincetown on 1/19/17. Photo by Wild Care Volunteer Swede Plaut.

Editor's Note: We received the following story this evening from our friends at Wild Care Cape Cod in Eastham. It concerns two Common Eider ducks with a rather uncommon story...

On Thursday, January 19th, Wild Care Volunteer Swede Plaut released two very special ducks back in Provincetown where they were found. One was a Common Eider female that was brought to Wild Care on 8/30/2016. She was found on a beach in Provincetown "just sitting there" on the the shoreline. Upon examination, Wild Care staff learned she was underweight, and the feathers on her breast were damaged. They appeared to have been singed, though Wild Care staff are not certain how that would have happened out on the ocean. During her stay, her health improved quickly, but getting her waterproofing up to par was impossible due to the damaged feathers. That's when Wild Care Animal Care Coordinator Jennifer Taylor decided to contact Rob Adamski, DVM of the New England Wildlife Center (South Weymouth) to see if he would pluck her damaged feathers. This is a procedure that is sometimes done to encourage immediate regrowth of feathers. Dr. Adamski agreed to anesthetize the duck, and he successfully removed all of her damaged feathers over a two day period. Wild Care staff were delighted to see the new feathers beginning to grow in over the coming weeks...

The second Common Eider came to Wild Care in early January 2017. She was found on Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown, struggling with a Quahog clamped firmly onto her beak. The bird must have been struggling for quite some time, for when she was brought to Wild Care, she was weak and unable to hold up her head for 3 days. Wild Care staff provided supportive care and cage rest...

"Caring for seabirds in captivity is an arduous task," states Stephanie Ellis, Wild Care Executive Director. "Heavy-bodied seabirds such as Common Eider need to be in water for the majority of their rehabilitation. If they are not kept in water, they can develop other issues such as pressure sores - much like a person who is bedridden for long periods of time. They also need to be in water to encourage natural behaviors, like preening, and waterproofing their feathers. Birds are similar to people in some ways... When we don't feel well, we might not shower or comb our hair for several days. By placing the birds in warm water pools, it encourages them to start "grooming" again. The warm water prevents their body temperatures from dropping, allowing them to stay in the water for longer periods of time. Only when they are fat, healthy AND WATERPROOF, can they be released." 

When the ducks were first placed together in Wild Care's therapy pools, they immediately hit it off. They began diving, bathing and preening, and "showing off" to one another. They also became increasingly feisty, and waterproof - with beads of water rolling off their back. "That's what we want to see!" states Ellis. "We are grateful to have had the opportunity to place them together in the pools, and then release them together. They definitely bonded during their stay. Wild Care staff did an incredible job rehabilitating these birds. It is no small task. We are also fortunate to have received numerous donations of fresh shellfish for our ducks by members of the caring public, and donations of fish from Atlantic Pacific Products of Rhode Island. Ducks eat a lot!"

The cost to care for these ducks was covered in-part by a generous donation in honor of Wellfleet resident Jay O'Brien.

Common Eider are a sea duck whose diet consists primarily of mollusks, crustaceans, and smaller amounts of fish. They breed in the North Atlantic, from Arctic tundra to Hudson Bay. There is also a breeding population of Common Eider on the Boston Harbor Islands. Eider are primarily seen from shore during winter in New England and can be found on the ocean and Cape Cod Bay. They are highly gregarious, and form large concentrations, or "rafts" seen from shore. 

To learn more about Wild Care - visit

Donations are readily accepted and encouraged to help with the care of the animals.  

Visit: to make an online donation. 

WILD CARE’s wildlife rehabilitators treat birds, mammals and reptiles brought to the center, with the goal of releasing them back into the wild when they are capable of independent survival. Through public education, WILD CARE works to prevent wildlife casualties and works to engage the community in conservation through volunteerism. Since our founding WILD CARE has accepted over 22,000 wild creatures, representing over 275 species of native birds, mammals & reptiles. welcomes thoughtful comments and the varied opinions of our readers. We are in no way obligated to post or allow comments that our moderators deem inappropriate. We reserve the right to delete comments we perceive as profane, vulgar, threatening, offensive, racially-biased, homophobic, slanderous, hateful or just plain rude. Commenters may not attack or insult other commenters, readers or writers. Commenters who persist in posting inappropriate comments will be banned from commenting on