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Long-tailed Duck


The long-tailed duck has a circumpolar polar distribution. In North America it breeds along the Arctic Coast from Alaska to Greenland and throughout the Canadian tundra. Long-tailed ducks often nest in clusters on nearby offshore islands and coastal tundras. Long-tailed hens lay an average of 7 eggs.


Latin: Clangula hyemalis

Average wing length: M 8.9", F 8"

Average weight: M 2.1 lbs., F 1.6 lbs.


The Long-tailed duck is a slim, brightly plumaged sea duck. Smaller than the scoters or eiders. Flight is swift and low with constantly changing bunched-flock formations. Long-tailed ducks have a very complex cycle of plumages. In winter, long-tailed duck drakes have a white head, neck and upper breast with a gray cheek patch and a large black patch below the cheek. The drake's body is white and black. During the breeding season, the drake's head is black with a white/grey cheek and eye patch. The hen has a brown head and body with a white patch around the eye and white under the tail. In all plumages, long-tailed ducks have dark wings and the drakes have long central tail feathers. They are very vocal, with their yodeling voice carrying across tundra and coastal habitats.

Long-tailed Duck Range Map

Food Habits

Long-tailed ducks are excellent divers, with their favorite foods being crustaceans and mollusks.


Long-tailed ducks have a wide distribution breeding across the breadth of North America's Arctic Coastlands and the northern Canadian Tundra. Their wintering habitats are a bit more specific as they tend to hug the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines along with very large bodies of water in the northern United States such as the Great Lakes. The overall population is estimated at 1 million but the species is difficult to survey due to their remoteness and breadth of Arctic breeding habitat. Their numbers have been in a general decline over the last 20 years.

Migration and Wintering

The western migration of the long-tailed duck covers both the coasts of Alaska and Russia with some birds reaching British Columbia. In the east they travel south to the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay and the southern coast of Greenland. They winter as far north as the seas remain ice-free. The majority of the western population winters at sea along the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands, with rare sightings off British Columbia, Washington and Oregon.