Old Squaw at Lion’s Lake

March 19, 2014

A long-tailed duck (formerly called old squaw) gulps down a gizzard shad at Lion’s Lake in Washington, Missouri. This was my favorite image of the series because of the symmetry of the bird’s bow and stern, both held high to facilitate the process. It is difficult to express how excited I was to photograph this rare visitor to the interior United States, much less Missouri. Long-tailed ducks summer in the Artic and winter along the U.S. coasts. The are a classic sea duck, typically attracted to big water, but apparently this drake and a few of his friends couldn’t resist the easy pickings of gizzard shad in this small community lake along the Missouri River flyway.


The serendipitous conversations that brought me to this stunning duck are worth mentioning as well. My friend, Brenda, emailed me an image of duck a few days ago that her friend Brad had photographed at St. Louis’ Creve Coeur Lake. Brad and Brenda were pretty sure the bird was a juvenile long-tailed duck but wanted to double check with me. I agreed with their identification but decided to forward to image to my friend Mark Haas for final verification. Mark is a dedicated birder and one of a handful of people I trust to verify birds for me on occasion. Mark not only verified Brad’s long-tailed duck but also mentioned that he had seen a listing on the Missouri Wild Bird Forum that several longtails were camped out at Lion’s Lake in Washington. I made plans for a visit that afternoon but waited for the “golden hour” before sunset.


Joyce and I arrived at the lake later that day, and by the time I had my lens and camera mounted on the tripod, I could already see the white highlights of several old squaw in the middle of the lake. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face! As I began shooting, I was disappointed because the ducks were out in the middle of the lake. But after about 45 minutes, this drake swam into a narrow cove and I had my shot! Every time I thought I had the best possible image, the drake would pose in an even better position. It was like he was showing off.

Thanks to Brad Shutes, Brenda Hente, and Mark Haas for guiding me to some of the best waterfowl images I’ve ever captured, of any species, much less the rare old squaw……whoops….. long-tailed duck.

Thanks for looking,


Email me at:  NatureFrames@Rocketmail.Com

14 comments on “Old Squaw at Lion’s Lake”

  1. So interesting. Pretty great experience, Danny. Best Chris

    Sent from my iPad

  2. What incredible Photograph, of that beautiful, long-tail duck.. I have never even seen one close up before, and you managed to capture it close up, at dinner time. I think that you should be awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Thanks for sharing Danny.

    Art Tilley

  3. Danny, I love this photo and the fact that you found this rare visitor to MO!


    Sent from my MUSKIE iPad http://www.muskiesinc.org/indy_files/mimag.html

  4. Great to have them showing off for you!!

  5. what a wonderful image…of squaw or duck…your effort results in our good luck!

  6. Great story, Thanks!

  7. I saw this in the current issue of Missouri Conservationist. My guess is that last year, like this, was an extremely harsh winter on the Great Lakes, in which much of the lakes were frozen far more extensively than normal. Wintering long tails were quite common December through March in the Milwaukee area when we lived there in less harsh years, and I would suppose that the ones you saw were seeking open water in less harsh climes.

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