Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis)

Long-tailed Duck

[order] ANSERIFORMES | [family] Anatidae | [latin] Clangula hyemalis | [authority] Linnaeus, 1758 | [UK] Long-tailed Duck | [FR] Harelde boreale | [DE] Eisente | [ES] Havelda | [NL] IJseend


Monotypic species


The Long-tailed Duck or Oldsquaw (Clangula hyemalis) is a medium-sized sea duck. It is the only living member of its genus, Clangula; this was formerly used for the goldeneyes, with the Long-tailed Duck being placed in Harelda. An undescribed congener is known from the Middle Miocene Sajovolgyi Formation (Late Badenian, 13-12 mya) of Matraszolos, Hungary

Physical charateristics

The Long-tailed Duck is a distinctive sea duck with a short bill and heavy body. The short, pointed, all-dark wings of the Long-tailed Duck are evident in all sexes and plumages. In breeding plumage, the male has a long, black tail-plume, a white rump and belly, and black breast. The head and back are black, with brown shoulders and a white patch around the eye. In winter the brown on the back is replaced by white, and the head is white with a gray cheek-patch. In spring, the female is gray with a white rump, and white around the eye and at the nape of the neck. In winter, she has a white face with dark crown and cheek-patch. The juvenile is similar to the female–gray with white, although it has more white on its face than the female.
Long-tailed Ducks dive and swim under water, and, while they propel themselves with their feet like other ducks, their wings are sometimes partly opened under water. Most feeding is done within 30 feet of the surface, but they are capable of diving more than 200 feet below the surface. Long-tailed Ducks fly low with stiff and shallow wing-beats, often tilting from side to side.

Listen to the sound of Long-tailed Duck

[audio:http://www.planetofbirds.com/MASTER/ANSERIFORMES/Anatidae/sounds/Long-tailed Duck.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 70 cm wingspan max.: 74 cm
size min.: 38 cm size max.: 58 cm
incubation min.: 24 days incubation max.: 29 days
fledging min.: 35 days fledging max.: 29 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 6  
      eggs max.: 10  


North America, Eurasia : Siberia to North Canada


Long-tailed Ducks breed in shallow tundra ponds and lakes. During other seasons, Long-tailed Ducks can be found on the ocean over sandy substrates. They prefer sheltered water, but can be found on the open ocean as well.


Most female Long-tailed Ducks first breed at the age of two. Pair bonds are established in the winter, or during the spring migration, and last until incubation begins. The nest is located on dry ground close to the water, often hidden in the undergrowth or among rocks. It is a depression lined with plant material and great quantities of down that the female adds to the nest after she begins laying. She usually lays from 6 to 11 eggs and incubates them for 24 to 29 days. Shortly after hatching, the young leave the nest and can swim and dive well. The female tends them and may dislodge food items for them when she is diving, but they feed themselves. They first fly at 35 to 40 days.

Feeding habits

For Long-tailed Ducks at sea, mollusks and crustaceans are the main source of food. In summer, aquatic insects, other aquatic invertebrates, and some plant material are eaten.

Video Long-tailed Duck


copyright: youtube


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Clangula hyemalis is a widespread breeder in northernmost Europe, which accounts
for less than half of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is
large (>690,000 pairs), and was stable between 1970-1990. Although trends in
Greenland, Iceland and Sweden during 1990-2000 were unknown, populations were
stable elsewhere-including in the Russian stronghold-and the species probably
remained stable overall.
This duck has a wide distribution at high latitudes in Eurasia and North America. Most of the birds inhabiting northern Europe are wintering in the Baltic Sea. This population is estimated at 4.5 millions of individuals, but only a few thousand reach the Wadden Sea and only stragglers are recorded more south, especially in hard winters. The birds of Greenland and Iceland reach the west of the British islands. This population is estimated at 150000 individuals. Both populations seems stable (Scott & Rose), despite the fact that some decrease has been reported from Scandinavia and that the bird is sensitive to oil pollution of the s
Long-tailed Duck status Least Concern


Migratory and partially migratory. winters mainly offshore between 55 degrees North and 75 degrees North and in Baltic Sea. Icelandic breeders are partial migrants, some remaining to winter around coasts, others moving to southern Greenland. Baltic Sea appears to be the most important wintering area in west Palearctic. Though extensive moult migration occurs in east Siberia, in west Palearctic males moult on coasts and lakes close to breeding areas either solitarily or in small flocks. Movements beginning late June to early July. Large flocks build up August-September as females and young desert breeding areas. Some reach south Sweden mid-September, but overland passage from White Sea to Gulf of Finland mostly 1st half October. Main influx to west Baltic November or December. Return movement North and Baltic Seas from mid-March, with major overland passage towards White Sea in May. They return to breeding areas dependent on thaw, late April or early May in Iceland, mid-May to mid-June in Russian tundras.

Distribution map

Long-tailed Duck distribution range map

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