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Oops I said Oldsquaw! Sorry, the appropriate name is Long-tailed Duck (LTDU). They were named Oldsquaw by early observers who heard groups of the birds as they sat, swam, fed, or loafed in large flocks and thought they sounded like a gathering of female indigenous people.
(I know I said I had some more Falklands pages nearly ready but thought I should interject this page. All the Falkland fans will be satisifed in the rather immediate future.)
The Long-tails are a salt water duck in our part of the world. Here on Cape Cod we see them in the winter; they often congregate in both roosting/sleeping areas and then separately in feeding areas. These areas not being in the same location allows you to see flocks of Long-tails flying out in the morning and back in the evening. On some occasions and during some winters these groups can numbers thousands of birds at a time. They are always in groups and are quite noisy. They nest in northern regions especially around shallow ponds in the tundra.
They are rather round bellied birds but fly rapidly and with great dexterity. I think they are a bit pointy looking in flight but that isn’t universally seen. The Long-tails are diving birds and roll frontward into the water; paddle with their feet and can stay underwater longer than any other duck. They will dive and stay under for well over a minute and dive to a depth of 200 feet or more. They eat shellfish and crustaceans that they glean from the rocks on the bottom or from pilings. They are always making new feathers. The molt schedule for a Longtail is quite complex, resulting in three (some references say four) different plumages between April and October.
We popped up to Provincetown yesterday to check the area around Macmillan Wharf for alcids and winter ducks. Alcids are those northern hemisphere birds that live and breed mostly in the frigid high arctic and look a bit like small penguins. There have been murres, guillemots, and a dovekie around the wharf during the past week and there is always the chance for a King Eider (KIEI) and perhaps two species of loon. We ran into a cooperative Short-eared Owl (SEOW) that flew around us for a while.