Iceland Mag

11 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag

Birds

Westfjords teenager fathers a flock of orphaned eider-chicks

By Magnús Sveinn Helgason

  • Heading to sea Baldur leading his flock to a swimming session with the magnificent mountain Hestur (Horse) crowning the horizon. Photos/Björn Baldursson

Baldur Björnsson, a seventeen-year-old resident of the island Vigur, in the Ísafjarðardjúp bay, in the Westfjords, has assumed the role of an eider chick-father, honouring a decades old family tradition. His father, Björn Baldursson, tells local news service visir.is that this is Baldur‘s first year in the role, which he himself played many years ago. 

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Taking a stroll Vigur island is only 2km (1.2 mi) long and approximately 400m (1,312 ft) wide at its widest.

Raise abandoned chicks
"These are abandoned chicks we collect from the nesting areas in the islands." Björn tells visir.is. Each year the family collects abandoned chicks and raises them at home. The chicks live in a small eider-pen close to the shore.

Baldur, the young eider-father, takes the chicks out for a stroll several times each day, training them to recognize his voice. The flock of chicks follows Baldur wherever he goes.

"They follow my every footstep. I take them out walking several times each day, and allow them to take a swim in the sea where they eat amphipods. By leading them out to the skerries I am teaching them to search for food on their own."

A lot of work
Baldur tells Vísir that taking care of the chicks is a lot of work. In addition to the small crustaceans the chicks catch he has to feed them at home three or four times daily. 

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And back home The chicks are kept in this custom made pen in between the strolls and the swimming sessions.

Baldur tells Vísir that the chicks will be released into the wild in late August or early September, adding that most make it to adulthood. "This increases their survival chances."

The accompanying pictures were taken by Baldur‘s father who shared them on Facebook.

From Ísafjörður Fjord to Vigur Island
Daily trips by boat from Ísafjörður town to Vigur Island are scheduled at 2pm daily starting during the summer months. The trip takes about 30-40 minutes.
The island is privately owned and the same family has lived on the island since 1884. Vigur is only 2km (1.2 mi) long and approximately 400m (1,312 ft) wide at its widest. It’s possible to take a boat over to the island and then get a guided tour around the island with a coffee-stop at a house called Viktoríuhús. Trips can be booked through Vesturferðir in Ísafjörður (tel.+354.456.5111).
If you’re visiting the Westfjords, a half-day trip to Vigur Island is something you shouldn’t miss. And for those looking for puffins – Vigur Island is home to about 80 thousand of them over the course of the summer.

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