The Common Eider and Homo Sapiens:  

Fourteen Centuries Together


Alexandra Goryashko







10 September 2020

Dear Alexandra

I congratulate you on your massive work on the history of the connection between the eider and humans from time immemorial to the present era. This volume will certainly survive the passing of time, just like we must continue to cohabit with the eider. We must make sure that we do not destroy their natural habitat. At the same time, the eiderdown can still be of use to us, as long as we utilize it in a sustainable manner.

With warm wishes,

Guðni Th. Johannesson



The "Eiderbook", as we dubbed this truly fundamental work by Alexandra Goryashko is quite a rare phenomenon in domestic literature. This is an excellent piece of work in the genre of scientific and ecological education, even though the author has not, probably, thought of it that way. But the "Eiderbook", having hardly hatched, started living its own life, imposing its will not only on the author but on all the participants - the editors, scientists, the eider farming practitioners, artists and designers, and just anyone, who happened to be near, who, at some point of their lives, crossed passes with the eider or eider experts. The result was a monographic work not just about the eider but about Man, the history of many countries and nations, interwoven biographies, and the hard road of obtaining scientific knowledge.  This book is not merely just interesting for all, including scientists. It is also very well illustrated and beautifully designed. It is a synergy of enthusiasm and dedication, of the love for the subject and demanding attitude to one's own work.

Maria Gavrilo, PhD, acting member of the Russian Geographic Society.

Member of the British Royal Geographical Society. A polar ornithologist with 35 years of experience.


Bought the Eiderbook. Now I'm speechless. I cannot even imagine what it took to create it. Thank you!

Gabi Schneider



Thank you for doing such a great job of putting together and processing a huge amount of information and publishing it as a book!

Andrei Voronkov



I'm delighted. Today I got the BOOK, and now I, with great pleasure, am flipping over its pages enjoying the text and illustrations. With gratitude for your work and the best wishes,

Svetlana Patsayeva


There is such a genre in scientific literature - a collective monograph. Scientists of different specialties gather and describe the same object, each from his own point of view, from the standpoint of his own science. With a successful selection of the team of authors, interesting books result that give a three-dimensional idea of the object described. In this book, the same effect was achieved by a single author.
If I had not been familiar with this book from the moment of the birth of Alexandra's very idea, I would have decided that it was written by many experts, competent but very different: biologists, historians, religious and regional studies experts, ethnographers and material scientists, art and hunting experts, literary scholars and local historians. And so that they do not fall into scientific tedium, a journalist-publicist also worked with them.
But no, all this was done by one woman, an eider-expert and a homeworker, who does not formally work anywhere. I had no idea that it was possible to process such a volume of information alone and present it to the reader the way it was presented.
The illustrations by Maria Sergunina and all the work of Gennady Alexandrov on technical editing, and especially preparing archive photos for the print, are worthy of special admiration. Photos from a century ago contribute to the book's charm.
Aleksandr Chernitskiy, Doctor of Biological Sciences, took part in surveys of eiders and collecting down in the Kandalaksha Nature Reserve in 1965 and 1966.


There are seven editors, including myself, who have worked on the book. Recently I received my copy. I need to admit that the book turned out much more serious than I expected. This is probably so because I was mostly editing the details of the biology of the bird I have a  general knowledge of.
While I was working on it, seemed the book didn't have any surprising details on eider biology. Now, however, turning its pages, I understand that it does have information on eider biology, including meticulously collected data on the structure of eider down, but these are not easy to find in a volume of nearly 500 pages. A large part of the book are life stories of people who studied the eider, worked on its protection, or organized the collection of down. These are Icelanders, of whom we know nothing, our compatriots who perished in the ruthless years of the 20th century, of whom we know but very little, and eider experts whose lives turned out to be more fortunate but even here the archive information and photos collected by Alexandra provide new material. Finally, the book contains a lot on the history of natural science, decorative and fine art and, of course, stories related to this remarkable northern duck. Finally, I'd like to mention its high print quality. The book has been put together with love, making it equal to the best of collector's books. I recommend it highly.


Pavel Kvartalnov,
PhD, Senior researcher at the Biology Faculty of the Moscow State University




My friend wrote a book. Not one, but today we'll talk of a jewel. In all probability you haven't heard of it. Unlike the President of Iceland, who got this publication before I did. Somehow he sniffed it out. They are always the first to know things. If not friends then enemies. Still we, ordinary mortals, can occasionally get insider information. Shortly, let me present you the book. A very interesting one, especially given that it is not at all a fantasy book, and not even a crime story. But real truth of life. It is, however, written in such a talented way that people all over Europe get into it. And these people are not at all ornithologists. These are the ones tired of empty belle lettres. Those who want something real. Something truly interesting.  

Svetlana Yefanova, tour guide,

Reykjavik, Iceland



It turned out, in my opinion, to bea totally unique book. The author's ability to ask uncommon questions about usual things will prompt the reader not to take established myths for granted only because they were repeated many times over before. Thanks to exceptional thoroughness with which the author handles archives and original sources of information we can become acquainted with a great number of little known or just forgotten books, documents, and facts. At the same time the literary talent of the author allows a quite wide range of readers to enjoy reading this fascinating, in a "crime story" sort of way, book.

Alexander Kondratyev,

PhD, deputy director of research at the Institute of Biological Problems of the North of the Far East Section of the Russian Academy of Sciences

One of the top experts on the geese


I've known the author of this book and been aware of her work for 15 years, and am certain that both the book and its author deserve trust and support. All who helped in getting it published will be proud of having participated in making this book printed. There was no book about birds and people like this before!

Mikhail Kalyakin

Dr.Sc. (biology), director of the Scientific Research Zoological Museum of the Moscow State University


I was the first! I'll brag! I was the very first reader to grab this book!!!! Brought it home but my mom took it away from me, saying she would be the first one to read it, according to seniority. But when my mom fell asleep I sneaked the book away from her! This is fascinating! The text is beautifully written. The language is so easy it feels not like reading but listening to a story.

Maria Danilova



My grandchildren grabbed the book and are reading it at night. Occasionally I get a chance to take a peek into it...

Irina Pokrovskaya



What a masterpiece !!!!!! Thank you so much, we will spend many many hours reading this and look at the pictures again and again. Its a really great book and I am looking forward to have it in the living room and read more and more in it.

Hanný and Tobbi

Sæból, Iceland



The Common eider can generally be seen by the sea shore in Latvia only during its migration so this species is no part of our "cultural history". In northern countries, however, the eider is one of the most economically significant species of duck thanks for a centuries-old tradition of harvesting eider down and eggs. In the recent years I've been keeping an eye, via social networks, on the difficulties related to gathering the material for the book and finding the funds for its printing. The end result - a beautifully looking, richly illustrated and inexpensive book - is, in my opinion, quite a feat by the author and the whole team! The easy language makes reading about historic and present-day events related to the eiders and people a pleasure! In fact, this book is an excellent example of modern popular science book about birds that I keep in my bookcase close to classic monographies by the English writer Errol Fuller and several richly illustrated publications on the history of Australian, German and Maltese ornithology. In my opinion these are good examples to follow for the writers of popular science books on ornithology

Ruslan Matrozis
Latvian Ornithological Society




An absolutely fantastic book! An awesome piece of work! Totally outstanding!  Continue reading..

E.N. Panov, Ph.D., member of the Russian Academy of Sciences



I am proud to have made a contribution, be it small,

to such a marvelous book.

Austin Reed, Canada





The words "cultured man" in the name of the book are perceived as an irony but only until you've read at least half of the book. In reality, one of the main themes of the book is the story about a rare but carefully preserved culture of eider down harvesters. The history of Icelandic and Norwegian families, old photos and faces of modern people busy with such an unusual but common and traditional for them business as cultivating eider colonies and picking the soft harvest. This is probably the most humane type of agriculture in the world as even the merino sheep are slaughtered at the end. Here, however, Man and the eider enrich each other without causing any mutual harm. Life on small islands is idyllic, and it is too bad that such lifestyle is accessible to only a small number. And the most sincere gratitude to Alexandra for a loving and detailed story about this peaceful life of people and birds.


Diana Solovyeva, Ph.D., a senior researcher of the Institute of Biological Problems of the North of the Russian Academy of Sciences, an expert on Stellar eider.

The author of one of the chapters in The Common Eider by Waltho C. and Coulson J., 2015.



Popovkina A.B. Review of 'A Wild Bird and a Cultured Man. The Common Eider and Homo Sapiens: Fourteen Centuries Together' // Environmental History, Duke University Press (United States), v 27, 3, p. 564-566.


  PDF 40,5


I think it is a deserving book, written very professionally and yet not at all boring. From this seemingly narrow subject of just one species of bird grew an impressive and captivating saga about nature, culture, and history of several countries. It encourages one to not only take a fresh look at the eider biology but on many issues of history, ethnography and even the methods of science. Lastly, this is just a very interesting and thorough piece of literature of the popular science genre.

 Alexander Markov,

Dr.Sc. (biology), professor of Russian Academy of Sciences.

Head of the Biological Evolution Faculty of the Moscow State University's Biology Department, senior researcher of the Palaeontology Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Chairperson of the board of directors of the "Evolution" fund.


It happened! Today I managed to acquire a freshly printed, still warm, and certain to become legendary, copy of the Eiderbook "A Wild Bird and a Cultured Man. The Common Eider and Homo Sapiens: Fourteen Centuries Together" (St. Petersburg 2020). The most delicious 496 pages about the eider biology, its down, and the relations with people, from the time of the Vikings to nowadays. Coated paper, luxurious photographs of present and former times, striking miniatures... My congratulations to the author!

Georgy Vinogradov




I feel very proud to have helped Sasha and her husband Pasha with making the English version sound as natural as possible instead of being a purely academic book. While doing such a pleasurable task I learnt a lot of fascinating things about the marvellous Eider ducks relationship with Man in Russia and Scandinavian countries. It's been a labour of love for Sasha to put down in writing and share her immense ornathological knowledge with readers in such a way that it's a book that anyone would find interesting and informative and good enough to grace bookshelves or table tops anywhere. The illustrations and photographs add to the story. Buy the book for yourself to while away hours, as a gift for a friend or bird protection project in Russia or abroad. For certain they'll be thrilled when the wrapping's ripped off!

David-Leslie Urion




Your (dedicated) book finally arrived. What a mine of information! What a monumental work to collect and synthetize all this knowledge most of which is totally unknown to North American biologists.

Jean Bédard

Société Duvetnor, Canada


Magadan Regional Museum of Local History

Dear Alexandra,
We would like to express our gratitude for a copy of your book "A Wild Bird and a Cultured Man - Fourteen Centuries Together".
Your present was added to the library of the Magadan Regional Local History Museum. We appreciate your input into the preservation of cultural and historic inheritance of our region and of the Russian Federation. We hope to continue our collaboration.
Museum director A.A. Orekhov




I was profoundly touched by the scope of your titanic labour. I am in loss for words to express my delight. But my wife found the right ones: "The Nobel Prize would not be enough!" I congratulate you on this remarkable success! I am not aware of any publications of equal value on any subject.


A.D. Naumov,
Dr.Sc. (biology), the Russian Academy of Sciences Zoological Institute



Jevgeni Shergalin. Review of 'A Wild Bird and a Cultured Man. The Common Eider and Homo Sapiens: Fourteen Centuries Together' // "British Birds". April 2021 vol. 114, issue 4, pp 243⁠244




Congratulations! What an extraordinary book! We are absolutely thrilled to have this gem in our collection - to be shared with our friends. Thank you for our treasure.
My husband Dan is a sculptor, mainly of birds. This eider has a four foot wing span - I gave Dan this buoy (body) and then your book arrived and there has been no peace - he has been so inspired by your work and now he is completing this wonderful bird. This project was a long time in the background and now takes over most of his waking hours...



The eider finally made it to our living room! Mighty impressive duck! And its all thanks to you.
Our danish friend Niels Roos read your book cover to cover immediately but we are savoring it slowly, learning more and more each time.

Dan & Kyra West, USA