[Charles Eldermire, BirdCams Project Leader, Cornell Lab of Ornithology] The first time I heard a Long-tailed duck was up on the north slope of Alaska. I was on the bank of a river and here was this bird flying in looking for a puddle somewhere to land in. And ringing across the tundra was this cry. Long-tailed ducks make this sound both as a way to let other ducks know that they’re there, but especially in territorial matters they can make this fierce, unconstrained cry which can be mistaken for distress even or surprise when sort of posturing towards other long-tailed ducks: This is where I’m hanging out, I don’t want you nearby. One thing that sets this sound apart from a lot of the other sounds that I hear on the tundra was just the really comical nature to it. And for that reason, these birds really almost provide comic relief through the hours of fieldwork that I’ve done up in the arctic. [Audio Recordings: Gerrit Vyn; Photographs: Gerrit Vyn]

End of transcript

The Long-tailed Duck has one of the most distinctive vocalizations of any tundra nesting bird. The Lab’s Charles Eldermire describes the calls of this loud and garrulous species.

Waterfowl are all around us. Are you confident identifying them even when they’re on the other side of the pond? Get training in identifying waterfowl from all angles and benefit from strategies like noticing “where is the white?” to take your birding skills to the next level.
Learn More: Duck and Waterfowl Identification Course