This is a pair of Long-tailed ducks. That's what we call them these days. They used to be called 'Oldsquaws,' until someone made a stink that the name was insensitive to the history of Native Americans. Some biologists were worried that some angry Native Americans would not support conservation efforts if offended by the duck's name, though the duck is not endangered, nor threatened. In 2000, the American Ornithologist's Union changed the name simply to keep step with the English language as is used in other parts of the world. Squaw isn't a word that makes sense anywhere but in the Americas. That 'Oldsquaw' was offensive to some wasn't sufficient reason for the AOU to change the name. People still know them as Oldsquaws and do call them by that name. They don't think a thing of it when they make that reference and are often confused if one says "Long-tailed duck." There are too many kinds of ducks with long tails, like Northern Pin-tails. I was recently hiking with an older woman who is a competent birder. Pointing out to sea from where we were walking I said, "Oh look! There are a couple of Long-tailed ducks!" She asked me which long tailed ducks. I couldn't believe she didn't see them right there in front of us and said, pointing, "Those, right there!" "Oh, those ducks! What did you call them?" She asked. She thought I had misidentified them, so I had to explain that we were talking about the same ducks; that formerly, Long-tailed ducks were called Oldsquaws. Which, of course brought us full circle; one of us would have had to say the politically incorrect thing in talking about the ducks. In addition to being a competent birder, I also know her to be a socially and politically sensitive person. Nonetheless, she responded vigorously that the name change was ridiculous and confusing. "Who thought that up?" she asked. I told her someone high up in birding circles thought Oldsquaw was politically incorrect and changed the name. Whereupon, I realized that the smart thing would simply have been to have changed the name from Oldsquaw to Politically Incorrect Duck. Everyone would remember that and it wouldn't be confused with some other duck with a long tail. And, it would be the only duck that raises consciousness. I wonder if I can get on the naming committee........
We have Politically Incorrect Ducks in our cove only during the winter. They breed and nest on the arctic tundra. They prefer sandy bottoms which is what we have here. Politically Incorrect Ducks can dive 200 feet down for crustaceans and invertebrates. They are also the sea duck which spends more time under water than on the surface. Two thirds of their time is spent diving for food.
"Oh, Larry! You look like such an idiot when you show off like that!"
Thanks to Wikipedia, allaboutbirds.com and David Allen Sibley - The Sibley Guide To Birds for the information.