This Sea Duck Has the World’s Most Expensive Feathers

Every summer, around 400 hunters scour a small, remote island in Iceland’s Breizafjörzur Bay in search of an unusual treasure – the world’s most expensive feathers

The hunt for the world’s most precious feathers has been held almost every year for over a millennia. People have known that Eiderdown, the feathers of the Eider polar duck, is one of the warmest natural fibers on the planet for a really long time, and nowadays they use it to make the best duvets and quilts money can buy. A kilogram of Eiderdown sells for thousands of dollars, as the feathers are only used to make luxury products. Eider ducks shed the precious down from their breast and uses to line their nests to insulate them during hatching. It’s these nests that the hunters are after during their annual Eiderdown hunt.

Photo: Georg_Wietschorke/Pixabay

“When we have eggs, we take only part of the down, and when Eider is already out of the nest, we take everything,” Erla Fridriksdottir, head of King Eider, one of the country’s main exporters, told AFP.


Not only is eiderdown both light and highly insulating, but it’s also extremely scarce, with annual global yield at less than four tons, three quarters of which comes from Iceland. Eiderdown hunters have to find about 60 duck nests on average, to gather one kilogram of down. The down also has to pass rigorous quality checks in order to make the cut, which also impacts the price.


“You have to be able to pick up a 40-50 gram package between two fingers and if it remains intact and does not fall out, then the down is of good quality,” one eiderdown inspector said.


Interestingly, Eiderdown is one of the few downs that is actively hunted and harvested, the others being a byproduct of the food industry. This makes it a favorite of nature and animal lovers, but few can actually afford Eiderdown products, as a duvet containing 800 grams of feathers costs over $5,000.