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sea ducks

Long-tailed Duck

Congratulations to Margaret Curtin, the first NC reader to correctly identify Monday’s Mystery Photo as the tail feathers of a diving Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis), formerly known as an Oldsquaw.  This Arctic sea duck spends the winter on both the east and west coasts of North America as well as on the Great Lakes. 

Long-tailed Ducks are known for their diving ability, where they use both their feet and wings to propel themselves deeper than most other diving ducks – as deep as 200 feet — in order to feed on invertebrates and small fish. Males have two slim and elongated central tail feathers that stream behind them (lacking in females) and are the last part of their body to vanish when they dive. (Unfortunately, these feathers are wet and under water in my larger photograph.) The other distinctive feature of this duck is its loud nasal-sounding call which can be heard quite a distance along the coasts of its wintering grounds as well as on its tundra breeding grounds.

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