Saturday, December 20, 2008

Long-tailed Ducks

Today I participated in the Northeast Indy Christmas Bird Count here in Indianapolis. The weather was quite brisk, but that did not deter the birds.

We had a great time finding all kinds of interesting birds. Surprisingly, we had over a thousand robins in our count circle today!

We found Greater White-fronted Geese, Northern Harriers, Red-shouldered Hawks and, my favorite, five Short-eared Owls at the Mt. Comfort Airport. You can read the prior post to find out a bit about "shorties".

And the find of the day? Two Long-tailed Ducks, Clangula hyemalis! Long-tailed Ducks are not a common visitor to Indianapolis. These are sea ducks, usually found in much deeper waters. We found these creatures at Geist Reservoir.

This is a photo my friend Cheryl Harner took a few days ago at the Huron City Pier in Ohio of a female Long-tailed Duck. Just take this pic and double it, and you have the view we had today. Two females in winter plumage. These ducks truly enjoy diving, so we had to keep watching for them to surface. Up they would pop, then like miniature Houdinis, they would vanish below the surface.

A cool fact is they are able to dive as deep as 200 feet in order to forage under the water. Wow!

Male Long-tailed Duck in winter plumage. Photo by Arthur Grosset from the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.

The common name of the duck comes from the extremely long feathers that make up the tail of the male drake. Above is a picture of the male in winter plumage. Such a striking animal. A better look at the male bird swimming can be found at Internet Bird Collections.

The Long-tailed Duck graces the Federal Duck Stamp for the 2009-2010 season. A little known fact is that 98 cents of every dollar from duck stamp sales go to purchase or lease wetlands. This is critical for many duck species' survival. If you love ducks, I strongly urge you to support this wonderful program by buying your own duck stamp, today.


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