For over 25 years Hessilhead has cared for Scotland's injured and orphaned wildlife, aiming to rescue, treat, rehabilitate and release birds and animals back to the wild



28th February 2018

Introducing a very special species, one that has never been admitted to Hessilhead ever before! This gorgeous bird is a long-tailed duck, (Clangula hyemalis), found at a local RSPB reserve, Loch House at Lochwinnoch.

Long-tailed ducks are small sea ducks that breed on the Arctic coasts of North America (Alaska, Canada, Greenland), Europe (Iceland and Norway) and Asia (Russia). They then migrate to further south for winter, including northern parts of the UK. Initially this guy caused slight confusion in the centre, due to the markings of his plumage. We now understand that he is an immature male going through a transitioning phase. As you can see from the photos, immature males lack the long tail that is characteristic of the non-breeding males, and the distinct contrasting black and white feathers of the breeding males.

Sadly, long-tailed ducks are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN red list due to a severe decline detected in the wintering population in the Baltic Sea, going from around 4.2 million individuals in 1992 to 1.5 million individuals in 2009 (Skov et al. 2011). The main threats for this species include wetland habitat degradation, oil pollution and entanglement in fishing nets, the last two causing death in most cases. This guy had cooking oil on his feathers which severely damaged their waterproofing properties.

Luckily, he got to Hessilhead, where we are working hard to getting him waterproof again. Once he is waterproof, he will be released where he was found and hopefully start his journey North.

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