Skip to main content

Eider ducks, luxurious down and the bird guardians of Lånan

The largest eider duck nesting site on the Helgeland coast is situated in the Vega World Heritage area. You can join us on a visit to the island of Lånan, where the nesting eider ducks and their bird guardians have a trusting and mutually beneficial relationship.

A unique heritage
Each year the bird guardians prepare the nesting huts and seaweed nests for the arrival of the eider ducks. And the guardians protect the nesting ducks from predators such as eagles, otters and mink. When the eider and their hatchlings leave, the bird guardians can harvest their reward from the nests: the world’s finest down! Visitors who come to Vega in June or July have the privilege of witnessing this fascinating interaction.

The islanders are proud of their cultural heritage and they welcome you to experience this ancient tradition. It’s a unique and unforgettable experience.

This amazing interaction between the birds and the islanders, a tradition that dates back to the Stone Age, is the reason why Vega gained status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The UNESCO recognition is also a tribute to women’s contributions – for they are the ones who since time immemorial have taken on the role as bird guardians, caring for the eider ducks, and collecting and cleaning the down. In addition the women tended the farms and the fields, while men were out at sea fishing. Even today the bird guardians continue to fulfil their role as caretakers for the nesting eider ducks.

The bird guardians
Every April, the bird guardian head out to Lånan to prepare the nests for the eider ducks. And all through May and June, which is the nesting season, the bird guardians host up to a thousand birds, protecting them from danger. The female eider duck is a bird with personality, and the bird guardians make sure she has plenty of choice; at Lånan she can choose to nest in a single-nest hut, one of the little “townhouses”, a collective, or in the high-density “favela”. Given such good care, the eider ducks return to nest at Lånan year after year – leaving behind their valuable down, and giving lucky visitors an unforgettable experience.

The treasured down
As mentioned, after the eider ducks and their offspring have left the nesting site, the bird guardians collect and clean the eider down. It is a time-consuming process and everything must be done by hand. The quality of the eider down in incomparable. For this reason, eider-down duvets and down-filled mittens were in times past treasured gifts to royalty, while today they are sold as exclusive products to discerning customers throughout the world.

When you visit the bird guardians of Lånan, you can gain insights into this and more.

A special safari – in July every year
By the beginning of July, most of the eider ducks have left Lånan and people can once again walk the island freely. Upon arrival you will be greeted by some of the bird guardians, and like a good friend they will take you up to the main house. This will give you a peek into the daily life of the islanders. In the barn is a must-see exhibition, and either here or outside if the weather is good, you will be served coffee and the traditional lefse.

When: throughout July.

Be a bird guardian during the nesting season!
During the month of June, when the eider ducks are nesting at Lånan, access to the island of Lånan is restricted. Between 500 and a thousand eider ducks will be brooding on their eggs or feeding their hatchlings, in nests outside or in the distinctive nesting huts. The bird guardians must be forever watchful, so this is an incredible way to form a very special bond with the eider ducks. For accomodation on the island Lånan, please check on

When: throughout June.

Source: Helgeland Reiseliv as


Eider ducks, luxurious down and the bird guardians of Lånan

Your recently viewed pages