Kindling Neighborly Connections between People and Nature.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Arctic Wild Neighbors: Long-tailed duck

A female long-tailed duck on the Atlantic Coast of New Jersey.
The long-tailed duck is a sea duck; a notable wild neighbor that breeds well into the heart of the arctic circle. But when the sea freezes over, this interesting duck can be viewed on large open bodies of water from the Great Lakes to the Finger Lakes to the Atlantic coast of New York and New Jersey shore. And occasionally we are fortunate enough to get a brief stop-over visit here in north-central Pennsylvania.

The male of this species has a long pointed tail, while the female does not. Both sexes contain plumage that is patterned with spots of black, white, and brown. Of course, also of note is the red eye and pink band on the bill of the male.

Two male long-tailed ducks on the Atlantic Coast of New Jersey (note the long tails).
Long-tailed ducks are diving ducks. They dive deep underwater to dine mostly on aquatic insects and mollusks.

A typical dive is about 30 feet below the surface of the water, but long-tailed ducks are known to have the ability to exceed a depth of 200 feet (deeper than any other species of duck), giving them the title of "Duck-diver extraordinaire!"

Given its extreme underwater talent, it is just as likely to make a dive as it is to take flight when avoiding predators.

In my experience watching long-tailed ducks, I know that when my presence causes one to make a dive, it's likely to resurface a long way off from where it went under.

It's striking plumage, comical sound, and outstanding maneuverability in big water make the long-tailed duck an Arctic Wild Neighbor worth keeping an eye out for.

To learn more about this wild neighbor from the arctic, click this link.

Here is a video that I found on YouTube of a flock of long-tailed ducks on Lake Ontario:

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