Harlequin Duck

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Common Name: Harlequin Duck
Scientific Name: Histrionicus histrionicus

Size: 13-21.3 inches (33-54 cm); Wingspan: 22-26 inches (56-66 cm)

Habitat: North America and Asia; found in north-western and north-eastern North America, eastern Russia, the Aleutian Islands, southern Greenland and Iceland. It can winter further south, being found off Korea, northern California and North Carolina (United States). They are short distance migrants and most winter near rocky shorelines on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. They are very rare migrants to Western Europe.

This species is found breeding on cold, swift torrents and rapid streams of rugged uplands, normally wintering on rocky coastlines.

Status: Least Concern to Endangered. Global population: 190,000-380,000 adult individuals. The overall population trend is increasing, although some populations may be stable or declining. The eastern North American population is declining and is considered endangered. Possible causes include loss of habitat due to hydroelectric projects and loss of life due to oil spills near coastal areas. It is listed as "Endangered" in Canada and "Threatened" in Maine (United States). A "Species of special concern" in the western United States.

Diet: Mostly insects and their larvae in summer; catching mollusks and crustaceans in winter. They find food mostly by diving, but also dabbling and head-dipping in shallow water.

Nesting: Male are larger than females. Adult male’s body plumage is slate-blue with white bands and collars, bordered with black lines, on chest and neck. There is a large white crescent in front of eye, a small white circular patch near ear and a white vertical stripe alongside the neck. On top of the head is a black streak, bordered by white and amber lines. It has iridescent blue secondaries and a rich dark slate-blue belly with chestnut-brown flanks.

Adult females are less colorful, with a brown body and white belly with brown checks or spots. There is a round white spot behind ear and faded variable white patches in front of eye. Occasionally, there are white streaks on back of the head.

Immatures are similar to adult female, but with darker bellies.

Breeding begins in May or June, and nesting on the ground concealed in vegetation. Three to nine pale creamy eggs are laid.

Cool Facts: It takes its name from Arlecchino, Arlequin in French, a colorfully dressed character in “Commedia dell'arte”. The species name comes from the Latin word "histrio", "actor". In North America it is also known as “Lords and ladies”.

Harlequins have smooth, densely packed feathers that trap a lot of air within them. This is vital for insulating such small bodies against the chilly waters they forage. It also makes them exceptionally buoyant, making them bounce like corks after dives.

Found in Songbird Remix Waterfowl Volume II: Diving and Sea Ducks

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