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Blagdon Lake Birds

Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis (Linnaeus, 1758)

(Rare PM & WV)


Female Long-tailed Duck, Home Bay. 22nd Oct 2011.Female Long-tailed Duck, Home Bay. 22nd Oct 2011.



  1. Two, immatures one of which was subsequently shot, 6th Jan. to 16th Feb. 1925 (B.W. Tucker, F.L. Blathwayt).
  2. Two, immatures, 1st Oct. 1925 to April 1926 (D. Carr, Miss A.V. Stone).
  3. Two, a pair, winter 1927-1928 (D. Carr).
  4. Two, not aged or sexed, winter 1928-1929 (per B.W. Tucker).
  5. One, not aged or sexed shot, winter 1931 (D. Carr per B.W. Tucker).
  6. One, ♀ or immature ♂, 26th Jan. to 2 Feb. 1943 (H.H. Davis, H.T.).
  7. One, not aged or sexed, 12th April 1970 (S.B. Edwards).
  8. One, immature ♂, 26th Oct. 1980 (per P.J. Chadwick).
  9. One, immature ♂, 4th Jan. 1981 & 8th April (per P.J. Chadwick).
  10. One, immature ♂, 18th Dec. 1983 (J.S. Rowe et al.).
  11. One, immature probable ♀, 12th January 1986 (M. Irish).
  12. One, immature ♂, 13-14th Feb. (R.M. Curber, T.H. S(mith?)) & 20th March 1988 (W.G. Biggar).
  13. One, 1st-winter ♂, 1st Dec. 1990 (K.E. Vinicombe et al.).
  14. One, 1st-winter ♂, 1st-9th Dec. 1990 (K.E. Vinicombe et al.).
  15. One, ♂ not aged, 26th Feb. 1992 (Unknown, Top End Diary.). See note 1 below.
  16. One, 1st-winter ♀, 22nd Nov. 1999 to 21st April 2000 (A.H. Davis, N.R. Milbourne et al.).
  17. One, 1st-winter ♂, 18th Feb. to 27th April 2000 (A.E. Bone & N.R. Milbourne).
  18. One, Juvenile/1st-winter ♀, 13th Oct. 2011 to 12th Jan. 2012 (J. Harris, M.I. Pearce, R. Mielcarek et al.), 1st-winter/1st-summer ♀, 14th Feb. to 2nd Mar. & 17th Apr 2012 (N.R. Milbourne et al.).
  19. One, ♂ not aged, 12th March 2014 (T.Grant)
  20. Two, 1st-winter ♂, 16-24th March 2014 (N.R. Milbourne, P. & L. Delve, T. Doman), same 31st March-7th April (C. Eastman, N.R. Milbourne et al.), same 11th-14th April (N.R. Milbourne et al.), same, two 1st-wint/1st-sum ♂, 17th April to 3rd May (N.R. Milbourne et al.).
  21. Two, adult winter ♂, 9th Nov. 2016 (N.R. Milbourne et al.).



Note 1: The observation made in the Top End diary in February 1992 may possibly have referred to the 1st-winter ♀ from Barrow Tanks but was either not submitted or rejected.


Long-tailed Ducks are seaducks, commonly known as 'Oldsquaw' in North America. They have an Holarctic coastal distribution during the breeding season, probably the most northerly of any duck species and are very cold tolerant, frequently wintering among the sea ice. Hence, only 16 000 or so winter off the British coast with just a few inland compared with four million in the Baltic Sea and another million or so along the Aleutian chain of Alaska. The origin of our wintering birds is still unknown but they probably originate from Fennoscandian and Russian populations.

The etymology of the the Generic name Clangula refers to the resounding yodelling call of the males which can only be given correctly by birds that are more than 2 years old, so they will not breed until then. Cramp and Simmons (1977) give the life expectancy of Icelandic ringed birds as 3.1 years, though a BTO ringed bird was recorded at 20 years old (Toms and Clark, 1998).

Studies of the food eaten by Long-tailed Ducks show it to consist predominantly of molluscs, crustaceans and small fish in the marine environment but in freshwater areas insects (e.g. Corixa and Chironomidae) including larvae, crustaceans, molluscs and plant materials are taken, though little study has apparently been undertaken in Britain to confirm this is the case here.

Interestingly, Cecil Smith (1869) makes no mention of Long-tailed Duck in The Birds of Somersetshire and the earliest record we have from the reservoirs is 1925 according to The Birds of Somerset (1968), although there was a record of a bird shot near Weston-super-Mare on the coast dating back to 16th December 1890. The first lake record was of two immatures that the great ornithologist Bernard W. Tucker and F.L. Blathwayt saw at close range in 1925, but in a note in British Birds they "learn with regret that one of these birds was subsequently shot, while the other was wounded and is at the time of writing (February 16th) still on the water (British Birds, 18: 302)."

It seems odd that there should be a spate of records in the mid to late 1920s to 1931 and then just one more record in 1943 before a huge gap to the next sighting in 1970. This could be weather related I suppose. A bird may occur anywhere on the lake, though is most likely to be seen at the dam end.


Bibliography (sources of information):

  1. Blaythwayt, Rev. F.L. & Tucker, B.W. Ferruginous & Long-tailed Ducks in Somerset. Notes, Brit. Birds, 18: 302. Apr. 1925.
  2. Blaythwayt, Rev F.L. (ed.). Report on Somerset Birds, 1929. Somersetshire Archaeol. & Nat. Hist. Soc.
  3. Blaythwayt, Rev F.L. (ed.). Report on Somerset Birds, 1932. Somersetshire Archaeol. & Nat. Hist. Soc.
  4. Blaythwayt, Rev F.L. (ed.). Report on Somerset Birds, 1943. Somersetshire Archaeol. & Nat. Hist. Soc.
  5. British Ornithologists' Union (BOU) website
  6. British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) website
  7. Carr, D. Report of Wells Nat. Hist. & Archael. Soc. for 1927.
  8. Carr, D. Report of Wells Nat. Hist. & Archael. Soc. for 1928.
  9. Carr, D. Report of Wells Nat. Hist. & Archael. Soc. for 1931.
  10. Chadwick, P.J. Avon Bird Report, 1980. Avon Ornithological Group.
  11. Chadwick, P.J. Avon Bird Report, 1981. Avon Ornithological Group in Proc. of the Bristol Naturalists' Society 41:37-65
  12. Cramp S. & Simmons K.E.L. (eds.) 1978. Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Volume I. Oxford.
  13. Davis, A.H. (ed.) Avon Bird Report, 1991. Avon Ornithological Group.
  14. Davis, A.H. (ed.) Avon Bird Report, 1999. Avon Ornithological Group.
  15. Davis, A.H. (ed.) Avon Bird Report, 2000. Avon Ornithological Group.
  16. Davis, H.H. (ed.). Ornithological Notes Bristol District, 1943. Bristol Naturalists' Society.
  17. Davis, H.H. (ed.). Somerset Birds, 1970. Somersetshire Archaeol. & Nat. Hist. Soc.
  18. Palmer E.M. & Ballance D.K. 1968. The Birds of Somerset. London.
  19. Rose, H.E. Dr. (ed.) Avon Bird Report, 2012. Avon Ornithological Group.
  20. Rose, H.E. Dr. (ed.) Avon Bird Report, 2014. Avon Ornithological Group.
  21. Smith, Cecil 1869. The Birds of Somersetshire. London.
  22. Taylor, S.M. (ed.). Avon Bird Report, 1983. Avon Ornithological Society.
  23. Taylor, S.M. (ed.). Avon Bird Report, 1986. Avon Ornithological Society.
  24. Taylor, S.M. (ed.). Avon Bird Report, 1988. Avon Ornithological Society.
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