Today we visited the Vega Islands, specifically Vega, which is the main island. Vega is a World Heritage Site due to its wonderful tradition of harvesting eider down when the eider ducks nest each spring. The practice continues today, and it is not what you might imagine when you think about the harvesting of natural resources. There is a special bond between the eider farmers and their ducks, and the care given to the ducks is unique and touching. To be sure, the ducks are wild animals. Each year, they arrive in the spring to set up their nests and raise their young. The villagers prepare for this event by building homes for the returning ducks so that the ducks have a dry, safe place to raise their broods. The villagers watch over the nests to ensure that nothing disturbs the birds and to keep the birds safe from predators.
At the end of the nesting season, the farmers collect the down. The houses are not only a way to keep the ducks safe and sound. They also ensure that the down does not blow away once the birds leave the nests. It is a wonderful example of people and wildlife living together and benefitting from each other as well. The ducks get a safe place to nest and raise their young. The farmers get a yearly collection of eider down, which provides them with a very nice living.