Only the male long-tailed duck has the long tail which the duck is named for, so this bird was obviously a female. Since these pictures were taken last December this duck is in its alternate plumage, which they were through out the winter. Long-tailed ducks actually have three different plumage phases and molt gradually through out the months of April through October.
I first photographed this bird in mid December on the Mississippi River near South Saint Paul. As the weather got colder and the river froze up I believe that the duck moved to open water near Prescott, WI and further down river where a female long-tailed duck was spotted off and on through out much of the winter. This is the same location where a harlequin duck, another Arctic duck that usually spend winters on the coast, has been seen for the past three winters. Since both the long-tailed duck and the harlequin duck are both diving ducks that eat mostly aquatic invertebrates and fish it is likely that these spots on the Mississippi have a good supply of prey. At least enough to support these ducks over the winter. Earlier this year we had a male long-tailed duck on Lake Vadnais that I had the pleasure of photographing. Perhaps if we are lucky he will stick around in the area this winter.