Comprehensive Guide to selected species of:
Birds of the Boreal Forest « back to Guide
Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis
Family: Ducks and Geese, Anatidae
Audio: Martyn Stewart, © Naturesound.org
An estimated 46% of the species' North American population breeds within the Boreal Forest.
Description Male, 19-22" (48-56 cm); female, 15-17" (38-43 cm). Male boldly patterned in black and white (mainly white in winter, mainly black in summer), with very long, slender central tail feathers. Females are duller and lack the long tail feathers. Males and females show all-dark unpatterned wings in flight.
Habitat Breeds on tundra; winters on open bays and inshore waters.
Nesting 5-11 yellowish or cream-colored eggs in a down-lined cup of grass concealed on tundra near water.
Voice Various clucking and growling notes; male's courtship call a musical ow-owdle-ow, ow-owdle-ow, frequently repeated.
Range Breeds in Alaska and Arctic Canada. Winters along coasts from Bering Sea south to California, from Labrador south to Carolinas, along portions of Gulf Coast, and on Great Lakes. Also in Eurasia.
Discussion The Long-tailed Duck was formerly known as the Oldsquaw. In midwinter Long-tailed Ducks begin their courtship displays. Several males gather around a single female and utter their mellow, barking, far-carrying call. Although courtship lasts until after the birds have returned to their nesting grounds, most birds are paired when they arrive in the North. In winter these diving ducks feed mainly on mollusks, shrimps, and crabs, but when nesting they switch to roots, buds, and seeds; the ducklings feed mainly on insect larvae. While most diving ducks paddle with their webbed feet, the Long-tailed Duck uses its partially folded wings to propel itself underwater. It is one of the deepest-diving ducks; birds have been caught in nets as much as 200 feet (60 meters) below the surface.