Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Harlequin Duck

Harlequin Duck
Scientific Classification
Family: Anatidae
Binomial name
Histrionicus histrionicus

The Harlequin Duck, Histrionicus histrionicus is a small sea duck.

Adult males are slate blue with chestnut sides and white markings including a white crescent at the base of the bill. Adult females are less colourful, with brownish-grey plumage and a white patch on the head around the eye. Both adults have a white ear patch.

Their breeding habitat is cold fast moving streams in north-western and north-eastern North America, Greenland, Iceland and western Russia.

They are short distance migrants and most winter near rocky shorelines on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. They are very rare vagrants to western Europe.

These birds feed by swimming under water or diving. They also dabble. They feed on molluscs, crustaceans and insects.

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.

The Harlequin Duck takes its name from Arlecchino, Harlequin in French, a colourfully dressed character in Commedia dell'arte.