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Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis

Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis, female, Photo Credit: Lisa Stinnett
Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis, female, Photo Credit: Lisa Stinnett

The Long-tailed duck is a true arctic species that breeds in the tundra and taiga regions of the world.  Once know by the former name of “Oldsquaw” this long-tailed sea duck is quite the talker, emitting an almost constant chatter.

A stunning duck, he is the only duck that undergoes two complete molts plus an eclipse and is the only duck to wear his breeding plumage in winter.

Description: The Long-tailed duck is a medium-sized, heavy-bodied sea duck with a small bill, round body and short, pointed, dark wings.  Males have a long-pointed tail and females have a relatively short pointed tail.  Both sexes have white underparts.

In winter the male has a dark cheek patch on a white head and neck, a brown breast and a pink band on a dark grey bill.  The wintering female Long-tailed duck is similar but has a dark crown and brown back and lacks the pink band on the bill.

In flight both sexes show dark wings and much white.  Long-tailed ducks fly in clumped, irregular, small flocks. Individuals have an erratic, rocking, side-to-side rapid movement.

Length: 16.5 inches

Wingspan: 28 inches

Weight: 1.6 lbs

Voice: Talkative vocal duck. Male has a melodious yodeling call - ‘ow-owdle-ow’. It that can be heard at great distances. Females make a soft grunting quack.

Similar Species:

  • Northern Pintail – has the long tail but lacks white face patch and pied pattern. Male pintail has green secondary feathers.
  • Harlequin Duck – female has brown flanks and small round spot on the head.

Habitat: In Tennessee, Long-tailed ducks can occasionally be found on deep freshwater lakes.

Diet: Insects, crustaceans, fish roe, vegetable matter, mollusks

Nesting and reproduction: There are no known records of this species nesting in Tennessee.

Status in Tennessee: The Long-tailed duck is an uncommon migrant in early spring and late fall, occasionally found in winter in Tennessee.

Dynamic map of Long-tailed Duck eBird observations in Tennessee

Fun Facts:

  • Long-tailed ducks can dive to impressive depths of 195 feet.
  • Long-tailed ducks are the only duck that goes through 2 complete molts plus an eclipse plumage.
  • Unlike other ducks the Long-tailed duck wears its breeding plumage in winter.

Obsolete English Names: Oldsquaw

Best places to see in Tennessee: Nickajack Dam, Paris Landing State Park, Big Sandy Unit of Tennessee NWR, Percy Priest Lake, TVA Lakes


Sibley, D. A. 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds. A. A. Knopf, New York, NY.

Alsop, F.J, 2001, Birds of North America, DK Publishing, New York, NY

Robertson, Gregory J. and Jean-Pierre L. Savard. 2002. Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online.

Peterson, R.T., 2002, Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America, Houghton Mifflin, New York, New York