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long-tailed duck - female or juvenile?

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Glad someone finally said something. Been watching. I'm not good with this species as I never see it(have chased and failed a time or two)

I looked at pictures on all about birds for a while the other night. None seemed to quite have that much brown on the head so that frustrated me.

Then I noticed, as I compared, that only the female had a completely dark bill. So, I was pretty set to call this a female as well. The male should a pinkish patch on the bill...

BUT as I stare at this bird I can't help but think I see that patch coming in. I don't know enough about the bird(at all) to know if the males would have a darker bill at first and then get that color. I'm hoping that mentioning this will get someone that knows more to say either way on that matter. 🙂


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By no means an expert but I do see quite a lot of these during the Winter and the one thing I can say is that the plumage is highly variable.

I've attached an image of an "end of November" bird which I believe is an immature male - the bill is already changing color but it has a black and white back rather than the brown. I also concluded the OP image is a female, but hopefully a duck expert will join in.

Hope I haven't confused the issue.


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It is neither an older female nor a juvenile, but an immature male, I believe.  Just the mix of feather ages rules out a juvenile (by definition) and it is my understanding (though plumage progression in the species is complex and variable) that any Long-tailed Duck with pink on the bill is a male.  Adult males would have bright, obvious pink in the winter, so this bird's strong suggestion of pink should be definitive for an immature male.

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