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Ecology and Vulnerability Long-tailed Duck
Ecology and Vulnerability
The long-tailed duck is a sea duck and the most arctic-adapted of all ducks, requiring tundra habitat near lakes, ponds, coastlines, or islands for breeding. In... Read More
The long-tailed duck is a sea duck and the most arctic-adapted of all ducks, requiring tundra habitat near lakes, ponds, coastlines, or islands for breeding. In North America, it breeds from northern Ellesmere Island, Canada, to the south coast of Hudson Bay1. On the east coast, long-tailed ducks winter in coastal habitats from New England south to Chesapeake Bay, and less commonly, to the Carolinas1. Large numbers of long-tailed ducks winter off Nantucket and Chesapeake Bay; it is estimated that up to 30% of the North American breeding population may winter in the vicinity of Nantucket. These ducks spend the night on Nantucket Sound and travel roughly 65 km offshore during the daytime to the Nantucket Shoals2. There are reported observations of up to several hundred thousand long-tailed ducks making this daily flight2,3.
Climate change is expected to have an extreme impact on arctic and subarctic ecosystems4,5. The extent of tundra ecosystems is expected to decrease, and northward range expansions for tundra dependent species are not possible due to the lack of land further north4. There has also been an observed increase in dominance of woody deciduous shrubs in many arctic regions over the past 50 years, altering tundra habitats6,7. Additionally, climate change may disrupt current predator-prey dynamics in the arctic, resulting in increased predation pressure on duck eggs. Such a scenario has been suspected of decreasing breeding success of long-tailed ducks in some cases8. It seems likely that these changes have the potential to negatively impact long-tailed duck populations. However, there is limited information about the ecology and population dynamics of this species9,10.
While activities in Massachusetts will have little direct impact on summer breeding habitat in the arctic, Massachusetts does host a disproportionate percentage of the wintering population of long-tailed ducks2. It is unclear how climate change will impact the current winter distribution of long-tailed ducks. Large shifts in the winter distributions of other species of sea ducks have been observed, although causes of these shifts are unclear11. Climate change is expected to have an effect on the winter distributions of ducks in general, but for sea ducks, non-climatic factors, such as food availability, may also strongly determine distributions8,12. Additionally, changes in the timing of migration between summer and winter habitats are likely, but population impacts are unknown8.
1. Johnsgard, P.A. 1975. Oldsquaw. in: Waterfowl of North America. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN.
2. White, T.P., R.R. Veit, and M.C. Perry. 2009. Feeding ecology of long-tailed ducks Clangula hyemalis wintering on the Nantucket Shoals. Waterbirds 32:293-299.
3. Perry, M.C. 2006. Food habits of a small sample of long-tailed ducks from Nantucket Sound. USGS Pawtuxent Wildlife Research Center. <https://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/resshow/perry/scoters/Seaduck_Nantucket_Food.htm> (Accessed 22 April 2015).
4. Hof, A.R., R. Jansson, and C. Nilsson. 2012. Future climate change will favour non-specialist mammals in the (sub)arctics. PloS ONE 7(12):e52574.
5. Boelman, N.T., L. Gough, J. Wingfield, S. Goetz, A. Asmus, H.E. Chmura, J.S. Krause, J.H. Perez, S.K. Sweet, and K.C. Guay. 2015. Greater shrub dominance alters breeding habitat and food resources for migratory songbirds in Alaskan arctic tundra. Global Change Biology 21:1508-1520.
6. Sturm, M., C. Racine, K. Tape, T.W. Cronin, R.L. Caldwell, and J. Marshall. 2001. Increasing shrub abundance in the Arctic. Nature 411:546–547.
7. Tape, K., M. Sturm, and C. Racine. 2006. The evidence for shrub expansion in northern Alaska and the Pan-Arctic. Global Change Biology 12:686–702.
8. Guillemain, M., H. Pöysä, A.D. Fox, C. Arzel, L. Dessborn, J. Ekroos, G. Gunnarsson, T.E. Holm, T.K. Christensen, A. Lehikoinen, C. Mitchell, J. Rintala, and A.P. Møller. 2013. Effects of climate change on European ducks: what do we know and what do we need to know? Wildlife Biology 19:404-419.
9. Schamber, J.L., P.L. Flint, J.B. Grand, H.M. Wilson, and J.A. Morse. 2009. Population dynamics of long-tailed ducks breeding on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska. Arctic 62:190-200.
10. Flint, P.L. 2013. Changes in size and trends of North American sea duck populations associated with North Paciﬁc oceanic regime shifts. Marine Biology 160:59-65.
11. Aarvak, T., I.J. Øien, Y.V. Krasnov, M.V. Gavrilo, and A.A. Shavykin. 2013. The European wintering population of Steller’s Eider Polysticta stelleri reassessed. Bird Conservation International 23:337-343.
12. Lehikoinen, A., K. Jaatinen, A.V. Vähätalo, P. Clausen, O. Crowe, B. Deceuninck, R. Hearn, C.A. Holt, M. Hornman, V. Keller, L. Nilsson, T. Langendoen, I. Tománková, J. Wahl, and A.D. Fox. 2013. Rapid climate driven shifts in wintering distributions of three common waterbird species. Global Change Biology 19:2071-2081.
Related Adaptation Strategies and Actions
Related Habitats (detailed)
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