Harlequin Duck

What environment does the Harlequin Duck like?

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Harlequin Duck

Harlequin Duck

This Harlequin Duck was captured after it came out of the Yellowstone River at the south end of the LeHardys Rapids. This diving duck loves rapid-flowing mountain water. It has been said to walk on the stream floor while eating dinner, but that isn't possible due to the bird's buoyancy. I have watched them fly past where they want to come out of the water and swim against the current to get up on their selected perch. You can see in the picture below the type of water they enjoy.
Harlequin Duck hen, or female

Female Harlequin Duck was swimming upstream in the Yellowstone River at the LeHardys Rapids just north of Yellowstone Lake.

Harlequin Ducks are a sea duck. There is a Pacific and Atlantic population of Harlequin Ducks. Those two populations are treated as racially distinct. But they are practically identical. There are virtually no differences in the females. Where there are minor differences in the drakes. The Pacific Harlequin Duck has a heavier bill and tend to be slightly less rich in overall color. Their pale-chestnut crown stripe does not extend as far forward.

As of 2023, the Pacific population is set at 1 million individuals. Meanwhile, the Atlantic population is said to be 11,000 breeding pairs, per Duck Unlimited statistics.

It's one of the smallest of the sea ducks but extremely hardy. They go from the storm-tossed rocky coast in winter to inland mountainous torrents and swift white-water rapids in the spring and fall. The Harlequin is the only northern waterfowl dependent on cold, turbulent streams characterized by rushing currents and cascades. They skillfully shoot through the turbulence only to fly lower over the water from the quieter water to start again.

They have densely packed feathers that trap considerable air, which insulates their bodies and makes them buoyant. After a dive, the packed feathers let them bob to the surface like corks.

When flying, they will fly over the waterway path instead of cutting cross country.

Harlequin Duck Drake

This is a Pacific Harlequin Duck drake. Enjoy the vivid colors.

Harlequin Duck leaving from rock over the LeHardys Rapids.

Pacific Harlequin drake is taking off from a boulder over the LeHardys Rapids.

To learn more about what a duck is, check out this page.

Harlequin Duck from the Atlantic Ocean

This bird was photographed off the coast of New Jersey, making it an Atlantic Harlequin Duck. Look at the chestnut strip on its head. It is a solid strip. Now look at the picture labeled Pacific Harlequin above. Notice how the chestnut strip fades to a light color. This is another difference between the two races of Harlequin Ducks.

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