HARLEQUIN DUCK(Histrionicus histrionicus) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION:The Harlequin Duck is a diving duck. The male has a dark grey head and neck with a large white spot in front of the eye, that is the end of a crescent starting on the crown. There is a white spot behind the eye. There is a black band from the top of the head going down to the base of the bill. They have a narrow white ‘necklace’. The body is blue-grey with rusty sides. They have another narrow vertical white band between the breast and the sides. The tail is black. The wings are blue and white. The bill is grey, with a lighter tip. Females are brown, with a white spot behind the eye. The legs and feet are grey. It is a rather small duck at approximately 40 cm (16 inches) long.
VOICE: https://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Histrionicus-histrionicus
NAME: The English name ‘Duck’ is from Anglo-saxon ‘duce’ and means ‘diver’. The Harlequin Duck owes its name to the striking plumage of the drake. ‘Harlequin’ was a colorful actor in the Italian Commedia Dell’Arte. Both the Latin genus and species names also refers to the same actor.
HABITAT: Harlequin ducks are found in fast moving streams, breakwaters and pounding surf along rocky shorelines. The shape of their bodies allows them to forage under water against strong currents.
DIET: Aquatic insects and their larvae, small fish and crustaceans.
NESTING: They nest on the ground near streams. An average of six beige eggs are laid, which are incubated by the female. She tends to the ducklings, but these are able to feed themselves.
DISTRIBUTION: The breeding range covers the western and eastern coasts of North America, and Groenland. There are also breeding populations on Iceland and on eastern Russia and China. Wintering grounds are along the coasts of that range when water is free of ice – also in Japan and along both coasts of USA. Some vagrants have been reported on Hawaii. (See note below for information on bird vagrancy.)
DISTRIBUTION MAP: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harlequin_duck#/media/File:Histrionicus_histrionicus_map.svg
ON PEI: The harlequin duck does not breed on Prince Edward Island. Observations of this species on the island vary from common to rare depending on the seasons.

CONSERVATION: This species of duck is of ‘special concern’ by COSEWIC due to a decline in their population. The bird is also listed as ‘Endangered’ in Nova Scotia. Possible contributing factors are harnessing of white waters for hydroelectric projects, or mines, or hunting of females. Even if hunting is prohibited, sometimes females can be confused with females of allowable species for hunting. Pollution of their coastal waters is also a concern.
Vagrancy: In biology this means an animal going way outside its normal range. For birds, this can happen when there are storms and they get blown off course. On other times, the bird simply wanders in a different direction than usual. Here’s an article about vagrancy in birds.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Bufflehead (female with Harlequin female), Common Goldeneye (female with Harlequin female)
https://www.mba-aom.ca/jsp/toc.jsp (Maritimes Breeding Bird Atlas)
Harlequin Duck – Species At Risk, Gov. of Canada (.pdf document)
Ducks Unlimited Canada (Harlequin Duck)

Harlequin Duck drake, Iceland - by Roberta Palmer, June 17, 2017
Harlequin Duck drake, Iceland
by Roberta Palmer
Harlequin duck drake, Iceland - by Roberta Palmer, June 17, 2017
Harlequin duck drake, Iceland
by Roberta Palmer
Harlequin duck female, Barnegat Light, NJ - by Emily Willoughby, Mar. 2013
Harlequin duck female, NJ Emily Willoughby