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Species Guide
A photo of a Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis), male
Long-tailed Duck, Male

Long-tailed Duck

Clangula hyemalis

The Long-tailed Duck, Clangula hyemalis, is a medium-sized sea duck known for its striking plumage and distinctive tail feathers. The male is particularly notable for its elongated central tail feathers, which can measure between 10 to 15 cm in length. This species undergoes a complex moulting process, with the male exhibiting a dark grey bill marked by a pink band.

Identification Tips

Adult males can be identified by their long pointed tails and the seasonal variation in their plumage. In winter, look for a dark cheek patch on a predominantly white head and neck, with a dark breast and a mostly white body. During summer, males display darker plumage on the head, neck, and back, with a contrasting white cheek patch. Females have a brown back and a shorter pointed tail. In winter, their head and neck are white with a dark crown, while in summer, the head is dark with a less distinct cheek patch.


The Long-tailed Duck breeds in tundra pools, marshes, and along sea coasts, as well as in large mountain lakes in the North Atlantic region. Its preferred habitats are characterized by their proximity to water, which is essential for feeding and breeding.


This species has a circumpolar distribution, breeding across northern Eurasia, the Faroe Islands, Finland, southern Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Alaska, and northern Canada. In winter, they migrate to coastal regions of the Northern Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, Hudson Bay, and the American Great Lakes.


Long-tailed Ducks are sociable birds, often forming large flocks in winter and during migration. They are known for their diving prowess, using their wings to propel themselves underwater in search of food.

Song & Calls

The male Long-tailed Duck is quite vocal, producing a musical yodelling call that sounds like "ow, ow, owal-ow."


The breeding habitat of the Long-tailed Duck includes tundra pools and marshes, as well as sea coasts and large mountain lakes. The nest is built on the ground near water, using vegetation and lined with down. They are migratory, wintering along various coastal regions and on the Great Lakes.

Diet and Feeding

These ducks dive for mollusks, crustaceans, and small fish, often feeding close to the surface. However, they are capable of diving to impressive depths, sometimes up to 60 meters, using their wings to aid in diving.

Conservation status

The Long-tailed Duck is classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN due to significant declines in wintering populations, particularly in the Baltic Sea. They are still hunted in parts of their range and are susceptible to being trapped in gillnets. Conservation efforts are ongoing, and the species is protected under the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA).

Long-tailed Duck Sounds

Recorded by: © 
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Long-tailed Duck Fun Facts

Did you know?
Long-tailed Ducks can dive to 60 metres in search of food.

Long-tailed Ducks on Birda


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Mandarin Duck

Aix galericulata
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