A substantial proportion, perhaps 30%, of the North American breeding population of Long-tailed Ducks (Clangula hyemalis) winter in the vicinity of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts. These birds spend the night on Nantucket Sound and commute during daylight hours to the Nantucket Shoals, which extend about 65 km offshore from the southeastern corner of Nantucket. Strip transects done from a single-engine plane in 1997 and 1998 indicated that Long-tailed Ducks foraged over the shallower (≤ 20 m depth) portions of the Nantucket Shoals, up to 70 km offshore. Diet analyses of ten birds collected in February 1999 and five in December 2006 showed that they fed principally (106.6 /- 42.0 individuals per crop) on Gammarus annulatus, a pelagic amphipod that often forms large aggregations, and is consumed by several species of fish and marine mammals. Our findings emphasize the importance of conservation of the Nantucket Shoals and the prevention of oil spills or other potentially harmful accidents.
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Vol. 32 • No. 2