Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Long-Tailed Duck

The long-tailed duck is a bird I'd noticed in a northern California eBird listing and had the impression it was not seen often in California. That is all I'd ever seen or heard of that species. 
Forward several months to March 2023 and I was on a pelagic bird cruise with Island Packers near Anacapa Island in Channel Islands National Park. The primary bird spotter noted two long-tailed ducks with some surf scoters some distance ahead. We tried getting closer to them and they flew several times. We were on our way to get closer to them again when the spotter said they were flying our way off the port side of the boat. They came by fast at some distance and I put up my camera and started clicking. I got several blurry photos of them. 
I already had the impression that long-tailed ducks were not common in California and the time we spent on our trip trying to get close to them was further evidence that they were an unusual sighting. 

The long-tailed duck, formerly known by the politically incorrect oldsquaw, breeds in the arctic (Alaska, northern Canada, northern Europe and Russia) and winters along the northern coastlines of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and from Hudson Bay down to the Great Lakes. 
They are unusual looking and beautiful and my photos don't give justice to other photos I've seen. The male has a pointed long tail from 4 to 6 inches long and a gray bill with a pink band. In winter the male has a dark cheek patch on a mostly white head and neck, a dark breast and mostly white body. The female has a short pointed tail, a dark head and a brown back. In summer, the male has a dark head, neck and back with a white cheek patch. The female has a white head and neck with a dark crown.

Now that I've been introduced to them I'd really love to get a closer look.  

1 comment:

  1. It's hard to tell how big they are, but they do have nice plump bellies. Are they ever hunted?