Winter Visitor – Long-tailed Duck

Long-tailed Ducks breed in Siberia, Greenland, Iceland and in Alaska and Canada along the Arctic Ocean. The Massachusetts coast is among the places that they spend the winter. They winter along the west coast of North America from Washington State up to the south coast of Alaska and the Aleutians. On the east coast, their winter grounds extend from Virginia to New Foundland and into the St. Lawrence Gulf, Saint Lawrence River and the Great Lakes. They are a diving duck and feed on small crustaceans, mussels and small fish. They can dive up to 200 feet and stay under for extended periods. You have to take a photo as quickly as you can since they spend more time under the water than on it!

The males have the long tail that gives these ducks their name. They have a white head with a big dark patch on the neck. The back and breast are mostly black with white plumes on the back. The bill is black with a big pink band.

Females and immature males are more brownish in color and have dark bills. The females have a dark cap. The immature males have a smudge on their cheek instead of the patch that adult males have. Neither came close enough to shore for a photograph in the water but I caught them in flight. That’s a female following an immature male.

This sequence of photographs shows a male making a landing. The long tail is visible during the approach. Then the “landing gear and flaps” are deployed. Touchdown is followed by a “belly taxi” to a safe landing.

I’ll be out looking for more of our duck visitors all winter.

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