Listen to the Quirky Call of the Long-tailed Duck

It's hard to mistake this bird.

This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of The National Audubon Society. BirdNote episodes air daily on public radio stations nationwide.

Episode Transcript: ​

It’s one of those clear, quiet winter mornings on the bay. The silence is broken by a series of loud, insistent calls. 

What’s the source of this wild refrain? There, a hundred yards out where the water deepens, is a small cluster of seaducks, dressed mostly in white. They’re Long-tailed Ducks, back for the winter from nesting far to the north. 

Long-tailed Ducks are named for the male’s plumage: long, slender tail-plumes extend almost a foot behind his body. And he holds his rapier tail cocked at a jaunty angle.

Long-tailed Ducks are far more vocal than most ducks, a feature that has earned them a host of charming nicknames. The name that probably comes closest to capturing the sound of the male’s call is from the Cree language – “Ha-hah-way.”  

This winter, along either coast or on the Great Lakes, listen – for Long-tailed Ducks.  By listening, you’ll have an advantage. Because they can be hard to spot! When they’re feeding, Long-tailed Ducks spend a lot of time under water – and they can dive as deep as two hundred feet! Even so, you can get a good look at a Long-tailed Duck on our website, I’m Michael Stein.


Written by Bob Sundstrom
Narrator: Michael Stein
Call of the Long-tailed Duck provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by G. Vyn.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2014 Tune In to   December 2016