LONG-TAILED DUCK – (Clangula hyemalis)
The Long-tailed Duck is a diving species, and can go to a depth of some 200 m (600 ft). This duck has a complicated pattern of plumages, which does not match the breeding and non-breeding seasons. The adult male, as its name implies, has long black tail feathers, almost as long as its body. The black bill is short and has an orange spot in the middle in the non-breeding male, which turns to white in the breeding male. In the breeding male the head is black with a white patch around the eye, the reverse of the non-breeding male. The wings are always black. The under parts are white. Females are brown with white around the head area. Their bill is black. Immature males have a white head and neck with a black patch, and dark back and wings. The length is approximately 50 cm (20 in.).
Its habitat includes both salt water along the ocean coasts and fresh water lakes. Long-tailed ducks spend more time under water than on the surface. They forage for plant matter, fish and invertebrates. The nest is placed on the ground near water.
The long-tailed duck used to be called ‘Oldsquaw’ in North America, a pejorative reference to its very vocal nature. The Latin name ‘Clangula’ is from Greek and means ‘noise’, and ‘hyemalis’ refers to ‘wintry’.
The long-tailed duck does not breed on PEI, but this species is present on the island throughout the year. It is very common in spring, fall and winter, but in the fall its occurrence is occasional only. Its overall breeding range is in the Arctic around the globe, along coastal areas. It winters along the coasts of Canada, Asia and Europe, and also on the Great Lakes.
Conservation: Although the population of this duck species is difficult to evaluate due to its distribution, it is identified as ‘vulnerable’ due to a ‘precipitous’ decline its population. Some threats include wetland habitat degradation, oil spills and other pollution, and being caught in fishing nets.