Hunting the long-tailed duck

Long-tailed duck, or Sauk, the representative of the duck family, a small Arctic sea duck. The easiest is determined by very long and thin tail of the males, which is constantly kept raised above the water surface (like the characteristic tail is also available in Northern Pintails).

The long-tailed duck is one of the most complex among birds system alternate outfits, with the result that both males and females have different coloration of the plumage in winter, in the summer, after the breeding season and in the first year of life.

This is one of the most common ducks in North – according to experts, only along the Arctic coast of Northern Europe and Russia West of Taimyr nests annually 3.8 to 4.3 million birds. Gregarious species, the greater part of its life in the open sea. Breeds in the tundra in small lakes, bogs, rivers, sea coast and Islands. It winters at sea, often far from shore, and on land there is seldom and in small groups, mostly during a storm or for the lubrication of the body. Very good dives, food produces from the bottom of the reservoir. Feeds on crustaceans, mollusks and other water invertebrates, fish less often. The object of commercial hunting.


Small-bodied duck with a rounded head, short neck and short bill is high. Length males 55-60 cm (including long tail), length of females 37-41 cm wingspan of 73 to 79 cm, weight of 450-900 g. the male has the tail very long (to 13 cm) and pointed Central pair of tail feathers that duck always keeps high above the water surface. Wings narrow and pointed, somewhat sagittate, both sexes have a dark color at any time of the year. Takes off from the water, making a long run against the wind. Flight direct, with quick and firm strokes of the wings. Usually high rises. Holding large noisy flocks.


Like most other ducks, the plumage is pronounced sexual dimorphism (differences between sexes). Moreover, a unique feature of this species is three meals a day (other birds once or twice) molt per year, with the result that the drakes have a great winter, mating and summer outfits. The male in the period from the second half of April to the end of June, the head (except light sides), neck and chest before, the upper torso is dark brown with long red braids on the shoulders, flanks and underparts are greyish-white. Summer moult slightly changes the overall picture – shoulder feathers become shorter and lose their reddish hues, the head and the blades, there are some white feathers.

The beak of the male, who in the spring had a pinkish band in this period is completely black. In September, the drakes significantly change their appearance – head and neck become white, sides of the head appear large chocolate spots on his chest is the same chocolate bib.

The female can distinguish only two types of feathers – summer (may-August) and winter. In General, the plumage of ducks combines brown, chocolate and grey tones, darker in the breeding period. In breeding plumage the female has the head and neck before (in front of the eye the gray box behind the eyes there is a oblong light spot such as light spot on the neck), the chest greyish-brown, upperparts are brownish with narrow pale edges, and white belly. In winter the head becomes mostly white, leaving large dark spots on the crown and cheeks. Drawing the rest of the body in General remains, although it’s getting a little lighter. The plumage of the back becomes reddish-brown hue. Juveniles are similar to females, differing from it more monotone color of the upper body.


Long-tailed duck – a noisy bird, especially in spring and early summer. The cry of the male – a loud guttural “a of aulla”, so characteristic for this species, which locals call the long-tailed duck “aulaki” or “aulic”. The male screams frequently and for any reason – during courtship, territorial disputes, fights over a female, take-off and landing, on the stairs. In the pack mass choir drakes quite sweetly together and somewhat resembles the sound of bagpipes. In addition, for both sexes characteristic monosyllabic lingering urge, something between “o”, “a”, and “u” are often heard from flying flocks.

The area

Breeds everywhere in the Northern polar latitudes, including in the zone of tundra, forest tundra and along Arctic coast of Eurasia and North America, the coastal areas of Greenland, Iceland, and Islands. In Northern Europe extended to the North of Scandinavia and in the Arctic regions of Russia. Breeds on the Kamchatka Peninsula South to approximately the 60th parallel. For the kind of uneven settling and the sharp fluctuations in numbers from year to year within the same area.

Winters at sea South of the breeding range along the West and East coast of North America South to Northern California and North Carolina, on the Great lakes and Hudson’s Bay, to the South of Greenland and Iceland, in Europe mostly in the Baltic and in the North sea and in the North of the British Isles, to the East of lake Issyk-Kul, the far East along the coasts of Kamchatka, Hokkaido and the Korean Peninsula.


During the breeding period it inhabits the inland waters of the tundra and forest tundra, in places penetrating into the bogs of the Northern taiga. The rest of the time (about 9 months out of the year) conducts the coastal waters out of sight of the coast or on large lakes. Compared to other sea ducks long-tailed ducks dive to the Bo?greater depth (some individuals caught in the sea nets at depths up to 60 m), and for this reason meet on farther from shore. During this period, birds rarely come on shore, mostly during a storm or from time to time, to carry out lubrication of the body fat from


Sexual maturity is reached at the second or third year of life. The breakdown into pairs occurs even in the winter, usually in January or February, nesting both birds arriving together in a large pack. Displaying male briskly swims around the female, raises his long tail, shakes his neck and throws her head back. In most regions of the mass arrival of birds, nesting occurs from mid-may to early June, sometimes when even small inland waters are covered with ice. In this case, the birds keep near the sea, waiting for when the first leads.

Despite the fact that the long-tailed ducks live in large flocks, massive breeding colonies are not formed, although some birds may nest close together in small areas, often near settlements or Eiders, Arctic tern. The latter give additional protection, loud cry warning of the approach of danger. The female involved in the site selection and construction of the nest, the male guards feeding area – a pond or just a large puddle. Despite the fact that usually the males in the pack more, both members of the pair are loyal to each other.

The nest is a rather deep hole in the ground – sometimes fully open, sometimes slightly masked at the foot of the great stone in the thickets of shrubby birch or in low grass. In any case, even in the open socket firmly seated female it is hard to find, so close she was pressed to the ground and merges with the surrounding landscape. Usually the nest is near the water, but almost always in a dry place. In the excavated hole, the female sometimes adds a few blades of grass and in the end is always profusely lined with down plucked from the breast.

The timing of oviposition varies widely and is directly dependent on the beginning of snowmelt, for example, in Iceland the first nest observed in the third decade of may, on Svalbard and in the Murmansk region in mid-June, and in North-West Greenland or the New Earth only in the beginning of July.

The nest is usually 5 to 8 eggs are greenish-olive, greenish-brown or olive-grey, sometimes with a slight blue or yellow tint. Egg sizes (48-60) x (33-41) mm. Sits one female for 24 to 29 days, for the first time, sometimes leaving the clutch for feeding, and in the end very tightly. The male a few days in the vicinity of the nest, but in the middle of incubation, leaving the nest and flies off to the sea coast, where the moulting strays in large single-sex flocks.

Young hatch synchronously, and a few hours later leave the nest and follow the mother to the pond. From the beginning they get their food, pecking insects from the water surface or diving. Sometimes the female helps them to find food, beak pushing sediment to the water surface. Despite independence, the first days of the ducklings sleeping in the nest and enjoy the warmth of a mother. Subsequently, often neighbouring broods together, and then one can track a large number of different ages of ducklings, while the second mother finally leaves their offspring. At the age of 35 – 40 days grown nestlings begin to fly and disperse.


Carnivorous duck, the food produces at the bottom of ponds. During the breeding period rests primarily on the shallow waters, where it feeds on insect larvae (stoneflies, caddisflies, mosquito zvontsov, etc.), worms, small crustaceans (amphipods, artmiami, zhabronogie (Anostraca)). Outside the breeding season spends in the sea, where the foraging dives to a depth of 10 m and holds under water from 30 to 60 seconds.

There are known cases of birds dive to even greater depths of up to 60 meters – more than any other member of the duck family. At this time in birds ‘ diet is dominated by molluscs, crustaceans, small fish and snails.

Leave a Reply

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