Long-Tailed Ducks

One of the more exciting winter ducks to visit off and on this winter along Cambridge Creek has been a lone juvenile male Long-tailed Duck.

I’ve only once seen and photographed this duck in flight, so this winter’s chance of opportunity to get so many wonderful captures of this species was a thrill to say the least.  I’ll try to ‘hold back’ on the number of photos!

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Long-tailed Duck (male)


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Long-tailed Duck (male)


Only the males have the long-tail plume.  I watched him several times and finally caught our visitor flipping his ‘tail’.  They do this as part of a courtship display.  There are no females around, so maybe this young fella was practicing for his return in the Spring to find a mate.  🙂

Long-tailed Duck (male) flipping his ‘tail’


The Long-tailed Duck breeds in the Arctic and winters along both coasts of North America, usually in large flocks that raft often far out at sea.  They also winter in the Bering Sea, Hudson Bay, and Great Lakes.

This duck is one of the deepest diving sea ducks, diving as deep as 200 feet (60 meters) to forage for mollusks, crustaceans, and a few small fish.



Formerly known as the Oldsquaw duck, it was renamed in 2000 as the Long-tailed Duck because of it’s name’s sensitivity.



We took a trip down to Hoopers Island to dine at Old Salty’s Restaurant (BEST crab cakes in the area!) a few weeks ago; afterwards as always, we road to the end of the islands where it meets the Chesapeake Bay.  (I highly recommend a road trip down to Hoopers Island.)  I sighted both a male and a female Long-tailed Duck out in the open waters of the Bay.  I could not believe it!

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Adult Long-tailed Duck (male) shot at a long distance on the Chesapeake Bay


Long-tailed Duck (female) on the Chesapeake Bay


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Long-tailed Duck (male) on Cambridge Creek


How lucky our community is to have this young male Long-tailed Duck hanging around Cambridge Creek this winter for our enjoyment!



41 thoughts on “Long-Tailed Ducks

    • Thank you, John, they are, and I can’t get enough of this visiting one! We are only 8-12′ deep here in the creek, but he’ll still stay down twice as long as most of the other ducks when diving. And then come out somewhere else way off where you didn’t expect him too lol. 🙂

  1. Donna, these are wonderful photos! And I loved your commentary. I have definitely seen more long tailed ducks this year than ever before, including one adult male at the inlet by Kentmorr Restaurant on Kent Island. Lucky you to be able to watch this activity from your home!

    • Thank you, Susan! I had another friend tell me about the LTDuck at Kentmoor too. Who can blame him for wanting to hang at Dirty Dave’s Tiki Bar for his winter vacation! 😉

  2. Wow Donna! It must have been really difficult to contain yourself after seeing these little guys…and gal! You are fortunate to live by water and the diversity of bird life!

  3. Your series on the diving process are outstanding. You have captured so much detail in these photos. We are weeks behing you, but I am hankering for those spring days when we will see these ducks again.Thanks for sharing, it really gives me hope.

    • Thank you, Jane, and we’ll thank that little fella who put all the energy into those dives too! 🙂 I had already taken so many dive shots at a distance in previous days, and then one day he was literally down below my balcony, diving. I think I almost wet myself, lol, trying to go back in and grab my camera and then quietly sneak back outside and watch/wait/shoot, hoping I wouldn’t scare him away. He finally did get wind of me, but I was able to get so many better dive shots than before. It was exhilarating! 🙂 I am going to miss him when he leaves (saw him last Friday), but I’ll be glad to send him back to you for your Spring!

  4. Excellent shots of these beautiful birds Donna. WE just got rain and more rain today! Thunders and lightening to top it. After a few beautiful days that looked like the end of winter… Good work my friend. 🙂

    • For our populated creek, it is. 🙂 They are more a sea/ocean duck, but the Chesapeake Bay region gets a few sightings out on the open waters, I’ve also got two friends just north of me who have both seen another male adult LTDuck in a marina, This gorgeous fella we’ve had visiting in our creek has been truly an excitement for me! Thank you, Ashley!

  5. What a gorgeous dude, Donna. Your photos are amazing. I am sooo envious. have looked for these ducks in vain repeatedly. They are rare here, but every winter a few show up on one lake or another.

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