The Common Eider and Home Sapiens: Fourteen Centuries Together


Alexandra Goryashko


Original drawings by Maria Sergunina have been used in the design of the book



This is the world's first scientific-popular publication dedicated to the history of the relationship betwee Man (Homo sapiens) and the Common eider (Somateria molissima). It will take the reader from the eiders at the excavation sites of early human settlements to the eiders in art; from myths and legends to the latest scientific data; from the eiders and hunting trophies to these in museum collections.


How do the eiders live and what explains the peculiarities of their behaviour? What makes the eider down the best natural insulator, and is it really the best? Why in some countries the eider down is considered an expensive luxury item while in others eider meat and eggs have become of value while no one needs the down? How did the eider farms, where wild birds are not afraid of Man, arise and function? You'll find answers to these and other questions in the book.


Special attention is paid to the story of the relationship with the eider in Russia, including the work to establish eider farms in the USSR and unique research proctically unknown to the world community. The book will also tell you about people connected to the preservation and study of the eider, from St. Cuthbert who lived in the 7th century to researchers who are still with us. For the first time information about dramatic biographies of Soviet scientists who studies the eider and how eider farms were created is published.




On the book's 500 pages an exciting story on how Man and the eider travelled together through history. The legend says that this  trip started in the 7th century in Northern England, where the eider has become the favourite bird of St. Cuthbert. The eiders will take us to prehistoric hunters and Vikings and to the eider farms of Iceland and Norway where eider down is collected. The eiders will acquaint us with people who mercilessly kills then, and with those who saves and protected them. The eiders will help us understand how science develops, and how Man's relationship with nature depend on the climate and socio-economic situation. The eiders will act as our guides in art and language study, and will show us how humans can think up and keep active the most surprising misconceptions. The eiders will teach us to pay attention to other cultures and demonstrate how often naive are Man's efforts to subjugate nature.


The book is published in both Russian and English. This is a very important point, and here is why. For no less than 1000 years humanity has been writing a giant saga about its relationship with the eider. The "co-authors" of this story, however, loved in different countries and spoke different languages, and recorded their knowledge of the eider not only in words but in their behaviour, artefacts, and technologies. Separate parts of the eider story, disjointed and written in different languages, could not be put together into one common picture, and the unique story of how people interacted with the eider, remained unread. What puts this book apart from what has been written about the eider before is that, for the first time ever, it brings under one cover all the separate parts of the "eider saga". Was I, however, was to publish it only in Russian it  would have failed to reach its objective but would have become one of many, perhaps quite good but inaccessible to the world community Icelandic and Norwegian books that are like pieces of a puzzle that cannot be put together. Only publishing it in the international language of English makes the it accessible for all countries where the eiders live while its popular style makes it readable to all the participants of the eider story, without exception.  

Alexandra Goryashko



Over 500 literary an archive sources encompassing the period from the 7th to the 21st century and over 700 archive and moder photos are used in the book. Over 50 photographers, 20 artists and sculptors and over 20 museums and archives from different countries provided illustrations. Most of the documents and photos are published for the first time. 

The book will be of interest to everyone one way or another connected to the eider: to biologists and nature protection experts, farmers and hunters, sellers and buyers of eider down items, as well as to anybody interested in birds and the history of the relationship of Man and nature.


Publication information and physical parameters

Goryashko, Alexandra. A Wild Bird and a Cultured Man. The Common Eider and Homo Sapiens: Fourteen Centuries Together. - Saint-Petersburg, 2020. - 496 pages, with illustration and maps. -  ISBN 978-5-902643-49-4.


Size: 29.5х22 cm

Weight: 2 kg 215 g