Long-tailed Ducks

Long-tailed Duck (Fiona Reid_
Long-tailed Duck (Fiona Reid_

Personally I prefer their old name, Oldsquaw, but sadly it has been replaced by a more prosaic one. Nonetheless, this bird has always been a favorite of mine, a winter visitor elegantly attired at all times, and as with all the winter ducks, apparently unfazed by cold water and icy winds.

Don Scallen and I had stopped off at the Travelodge Hotel in Burlington to see what the lakeshore had to offer and we enjoyed watching a large group of Long-tailed Ducks diving for food. They swam away from the rocky wall on our approach, but not for long. They returned close to shore to dive under large chunks of rubble and rocks, staying underwater for several minutes at a time. We thought they were probably gleaning mollusks, and in fact this is their main source of food in winter. In summer these ducks also eat aquatic insects, other aquatic invertebrates, and some plant material. They usually feed within 30 feet of the water surface, as they were today, but these ducks can dive more than 200 feet deep at times. Like most ducks they propel themselves with their feet when diving, but they also may swim with their wings partly open. They fly low, with stiff wing-beats, sometimes tilting from side to side. During migration and when flying over land they fly very high in large flocks.

These ducks establish pair bonds in winter or during migration. They nest near water, using a great deal of down that the female supplements as she lays her eggs. Females first breed at two years of age, laying 6 to 11 eggs and incubating for 24- 29 days. The young swim and dive soon after hatching, but are tended by the female who may dislodge food items for them. They start to fly about a month later.

by Fiona Reid
President, Halton/North Peel Naturalist Club

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *