Medium-sized diving duck. White patch in front of eyes. Round white ear spot. Male dark slate-blue with reddish brown sides and odd white patches and spots. Female dusky brown with two or three round white spots on head.
Harlequin duck. The harlequin duck (Histrionicus histrionicus) is a small sea duck. It takes its name from Harlequin (French Arlequin, Italian Arlecchino), a colourfully dressed character in Commedia dell'arte. The species name comes from the Latin word "histrio", "actor".
The Harlequin duck is abundant during the breeding season in a few regions within its range, but only in remote areas inaccessible to most people in the Aleutian Islands. Recent population estimates place the Pacific population at 1 million individuals and the Atlantic population at 11,000 breeding pairs.
Turbulent northern waters are favored by this strikingly patterned little duck. It is often found in summer on rushing rivers, diving and swimming against the current, climbing easily on steep and slippery rocks above the water. When moving inland, pairs of Harlequins usually fly low, following every bend of the river rather than taking overland shortcuts.
The distinctive Harlequin Duck is a small sea duck with a small bill, short neck, and long tail. Males in breeding plumage are unmistakable with their dark blue color, rufous sides and crown, and striking white patterning on the face, neck, sides, and back.
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Harlequin Duck. Histrionicus histrionicus. By Ellen Horowitz. Photo by Alan G. Nelson . The rapid wingbeats of two small ducks caught my attention.
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Yet the Harlequin Duck is utterly at home in such places, paddling into nine-mile-per-hour currents and diving to the riverbed for aquatic invertebrates. Its underwater propulsion comes mainly from powerful kicks, while partially spread wings may help the submerged duck to steer.