Long-tailed Ducks, Clangula hyemalis
Long-tailed Ducks breed in Arctic and subarctic regions, primarily in coastal tundra habitats. During the non-breeding season, they migrate to more temperate coastal areas, including bays, estuaries, and offshore waters. They can be found in regions such as North America, Europe, and Asia.
Males have a striking breeding plumage with a long, slender tail, a white body, and dark upperparts. Females have a more subdued plumage, featuring a mottled brown coloration. Both sexes have a dark head with a pale cheek patch.
Long-tailed Ducks are diving ducks with remarkable diving abilities. They dive underwater to search for food, often reaching impressive depths. They are known to plunge dive headfirst into the water, disappearing for prolonged periods before resurfacing. Their diet consists mainly of aquatic invertebrates, such as mollusks, crustaceans, and small fish. They also feed on aquatic plants and algae.
They have a complex vocal repertoire, which includes a variety of whistles, chatters, and grunts. These vocalizations are used for communication and social interactions.
Long-tailed Ducks typically nest on the ground, choosing elevated sites near water, such as rocky or grassy areas on cliffs or islands. The female constructs the nest, which is a scrape lined with plant material, feathers, and down.
A female Long-tailed Duck usually lays around 6-10 eggs, with an average of 8 eggs per clutch. The eggs are olive-brown in color and well-camouflaged. The female incubates the eggs for approximately 24-28 days. The male leaves after mating and undergoes a molt during this time.
Once the eggs hatch, the female leads the ducklings to the water shortly after birth. The ducklings are precocial and capable of swimming and finding their own food soon after hatching. They feed on invertebrates, small fish, and plant material. The female provides protection and guidance to the young. The young Long-tailed Ducks fledge at around 50-60 days after hatching. They become independent but may remain in family groups for some time.
During the winter, Long-tailed Ducks undergo long-distance migrations traveling to more southerly coastal habitats with open water and suitable foraging grounds, including sheltered bays, estuaries, and offshore waters. They prefer areas with a mixture of rocky and sandy substrates, where they can find a diverse array of prey items.