Monday, 19 April 2010

Driven to drink

A while ago I posted a piece about the salt glands that eiders and other sea birds have to enable them to survive without fresh water by taking in sea water and excreting the excess salts. 

Wandering along the Bamburgh shore the other day, I was surprised to see a male eider swimming towards me.  Usually they move away rather than come closer. Then it came out of the water and padded up onto the shore right in front of me.  It seemed oblivious to my presence - which again is unusual.  Then the penny dropped.  It was heading straight for a small pool of fresh water that had collected among the rocks from a small drainage run coming off the land.  It obviously knew it was there and nothing was going to stop it.  This was a duck on a mission.   It drank at least half a dozen times, throwing its head back each time, before waddling off back into the sea.

So, salt glands or not, eider rather have the fresh stuff thank you very much.


  1. Built-in desalination plants? I wonder if geneticists will mix eider and human DNA to enable us to drink seawater. They'd have to sort out the drippy nose problem though.

  2. Not a bad idea that Rob. It might drive us quackers of course but, given the lack of heat up here at the moment I wouldn't mind being able to grow my own eiderdown.

  3. Great observation, I remember reading your blog about the eiders salt glands which I really enjoyed. What eiderreally like to know is how long did it take you to come up with the pun? Linda

  4. Ah..yes, sorry about that Linda. It came to me on a wild fowl night as I ducked to avoid flying objects.