Long-tailed Duck

Hey guys, welcome back. Today is a duck that spends most of its time in the tundra. Abundant in the arctic during summer, long-tailed ducks head south only to the northeast of the US in winter. They typically stay along the coasts, but do occasionally make their way to the Great Lakes. Even then, they spend much of their time offshore, out of view from land. Occasionally, they will make it closer to shore, particularly in well sheltered bays. The only ones I’ve ever seen in the wild have been in the lower New York Bay, and out in the Atlantic Ocean proper. I have yet to see one on Lake Erie.

Long-tailed duck male. Ft. Tilden, Rockaway, NY
Long-tailed duck female. Ft. Tilden, Rockaway, NY

Named for the long tail feathers sported by the males, the long-tailed duck is a good example of a bird with a non-breeding plumage just as (if not more) colorful than their breeding plumage. When found in the lower 48 states, males have a white back, white rump, and mostly white head with dark cheek patches. Their summer plumage is almost a mirror image, swapping much of the black and white portions. Long-tailed ducks are a little smaller than a mallard in terms of body size, though they are larger than the small bufflehead. Long-tailed ducks are diving ducks, and spend 3 to 4 times longer underwater than on the surface during active foraging. This is partly because they dive so deep, reaching depth of up to 200 feet! Very impressive indeed. I remember the first one I saw was on my trip to Ft. Tilden specifically looking for wintering seaducks. The long-tailed was the only one I saw. Change of pace next time, as we look at our second vulture! See you then!

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