Long-tailed Duck

Clangula hyemalis
Long-tailed Duck specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

Although not quite as large or as white as the eiders (genus Somateria), the winter Long-tailed Duck (16 1/2 inches, females; 21 inches, males) is nonetheless one of the Northern Hemisphere’s paler species of sea ducks. During that part of the year, male Long-tailed Ducks have a white head and body with black wings, black tail, and black cheek patch, while females are pale gray-brown overall. In summer, however, both sexes of Long-tailed Duck become much darker, with the male loosing much of the white on its head and body. At all seasons, the Long-tailed Duck may be separated from other ducks in its range and habitat by its slim body, small head, and (in the male) long tail. The Long-tailed Duck inhabits large areas of the Northern Hemisphere. In North America, this species breeds from the Aleutian Islands in Alaska east to eastern Quebec and from the high Arctic south to the Hudson Bay. In winter, Long-tailed Ducks may be found along the Pacific coast from southern Alaska to Washington, in the southern part of the Hudson Bay, along the Atlantic coast from Newfoundland to Virginia, and on the Great Lakes. In the Old World, this species breeds in Greenland, Iceland, Northern Europe, and Russia, wintering south to Britain and northern Japan. In summer, Long-tailed Ducks breed on small ponds in tundra wetlands. During winter and on migration, this species may be found in offshore waters and on large freshwater lakes. The diet of the Long-tailed Duck varies by season; in summer, this species eats insects, crustaceans, and plant matter, while fish and mollusks play a larger role in winter. Due to the relative inaccessibility of their breeding grounds, most birdwatchers never observe Long-tailed Ducks during the summer months. They are much more accessible in winter and during migration, when they may be observed in small flocks offshore with the help of a powerful spotting scope. This species is primarily active during the day.

DC Information

Common migrant and winter resident from November to March. Most often found in Chesapeake Bay and surrounding estuaries. Sexes are different.

Specimen Information

The bird on the left is a male and the bird in the middle is a female; the sex of the bird on the right is indeterminate, but some records suggest that it might be a male.
One of these records may apply to the bird on the left and perhaps the other to the bird on the right.
Date:  12/21/1923
Collected By:  Brent M Morgan
Locality:  Neabsco, VA
Sex:  Male
Catalog ID:  277179
Date:  1/29/1930
Collected By:  Capt SW Reeves, USA
Locality:  Fort Washington, MD
Sex:  Male
Catalog ID:  313801

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalization

Sound from xeno-canto. XC64611 Clangula hyemalis (Long-tailed Duck)