|Conservation status||Still an abundant species, with population in the millions, but has declined seriously in some areas. Dense concentrations are vulnerable to oil spills and other pollution in northern seas. Large numbers are sometimes caught and killed in fishing nets.|
|Family||Ducks and Geese|
|Habitat||Ocean, large lakes; in summer, tundra pools and lakes. For breeding season favors both low-lying tundra and hilly areas, barren ground and edges of northern forest, as long as open water is nearby. At other seasons mostly on ocean, including far from shore among pack ice; also on Great Lakes and sometimes elsewhere on fresh water.|
forages by diving and swimming underwater, with wings partly opened but propelled mainly by feet. Most feeding is within 30' of surface; supposedly able to dive more than 200', deeper than any other duck.
6-8, sometimes 5-11. Olive-buff to olive-gray. Incubation is by female, 24-29 days. Female covers eggs with down when leaving nest. Young: leave nest shortly after hatching, can swim and dive well when quite small. Young are tended by female, but feed themselves; may feed on items dislodged to surface by diving of female. Age at first flight about 35-40 days.
leave nest shortly after hatching, can swim and dive well when quite small. Young are tended by female, but feed themselves; may feed on items dislodged to surface by diving of female. Age at first flight about 35-40 days.
mollusks, crustaceans, insects. Diet at sea mainly mollusks (including mussels, clams, periwinkles) and crustaceans (including amphipods and isopods); also a few small fish. In summer on breeding territory eats mostly aquatic insects, also crustaceans, mollusks, fish eggs, and some plant material including grasses and pondweeds.
First breeds at age of 2 years. Courtship display begins by early winter, but most pair formation occurs in early spring. Displays of male include shaking head back and forth, raising long tail high in air, tossing head back with bill pointed up while calling. Nest site is on dry ground close to water, often partly hidden under low growth or among rocks. Nest is a depression lined with available plant material and with large amount of down, the down being added after some eggs are laid.
Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Migrates relatively late in fall and early in spring. May travel in flocks of hundreds. In travel over land, fly very high. Many migrate around coastlines rather than going overland; for example, huge numbers move north through the Bering Straits in spring.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsVarious clucking and growling notes; male's courtship call a musical ow-owdle-ow, ow-owdle-ow, frequently repeated.
Learn more about this sound collection.