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threatened and/or endangered

Harlequin Duck Histrionicus histrionicus


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Male Harlequin Duck
credit: Peter Massas/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Anatidae, Ducks and Geese view all from this family

Description ADULT MALE Has mainly dark blue body plumage and red flanks. Head is adorned with white markings: crescent at base of bill, spot and streak behind eye. Note also the white half collar and white stripes on flanks and back. Eclipse male is sooty brown, but with hint of adult markings. ADULT FEMALE Brown, palest on belly, with a white spot on side of head. JUVENILE Similar to adult female.

Dimensions Length: 14-20" (36-51 cm)

Habitat Very common locally. During breeding season, found on fast-flowing rivers, mainly in Arctic. Outside breeding season, mostly coastal, favoring exposed rocky shores on North Atlantic seaboard.

Observation Tips Hike alongside a boulder-strewn northern river in spring and you should see the occasional pair. Most birds are found on coasts between August and March.

Range Great Lakes, Rocky Mountains, Mid-Atlantic, Western Canada, Plains, New England, Northwest, Eastern Canada, Alaska, Southeast, California

Voice Mostly silent, but sometimes quacks or whistles.

Discussion Plump-bodied diving duck. Feeds on submerged aquatic invertebrates. Male is stunningly marked and unmistakable. Female's plumage recalls that of female scaups and scoters; note, however, smaller bill (cf. other diving ducks) and more rounded head shape (shared with male). Not especially gregarious, even outside breeding season.