Long-tailed Duck

A long-lived bird in the wild, the Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis spends most of its life at sea, often congregating in huge rafts. It is believed to be the species which spends the greatest proportion of its time diving, in relation to time on the surface. It forages for aquatic invertebrates, including insects and crustaceans; also some bivalves, fish, fish eggs, and plant matter. Depth records extend down to 60 metres.

Keeping the Long-tailed Duck is a challenge. Clean cool water is a must and they like to be in the company of their own kind. They prefer to nest near others, making a shallow scrape in the ground and lining it with available vegetation and some down. 6-9 pale grey/olive eggs are incubated for 24-29 days. The young leave the nest soon after they are dry and can feed themselves immediately.

The traditional North American name of 'Oldsquaw' was considered possibly offensive to the native peoples, usage of the word having changed over time to have alternative connotations. The hoo-ha raged around the turn of the century. Political correctness gone mad? Possibly not: 'We refuse to change on the basis of being politically correct; we will change in the name of uniformity,' said Banks, an ornithologist with the U.S. Geological Survey at the Smithsonian. So Long-tailed Duck it is.

Long-tailed Drake in breeding plumage - Zoe Brodie-James
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