Boreal Birds
300+ species, billions of birds rely on Canada's boreal forest as critical breeding grounds
© Peter Massas/Wikimedia Commons (CC 2.0)

Harlequin Duck

Harlequin Duck
Histrionicus histrionicus
Duck-like Birds | Family: Ducks and Geese, Anatidae

An estimated 11% of the species' North American population breeds within the Boreal Forest.

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Overview

During breeding season, the Harlequin Duck is a bird of swift mountain streams, where it catches the nymphs of stoneflies, caddisflies, and other aquatic insects. In the fall the birds move to the coast, the preferred habitat where they thrive in rough water of a different kind, riding the surf in toward rocky cliffs, and wrenching mussels, chitons, barnacles, and other attached animals from the surface and diving for crabs and other crustaceans.

Description

14-20" (36-51 cm). A small dark duck. Male is blue-gray (appearing black at a distance), with chestnut flanks and distinctive white patches on head and body. Female is dusky brown with 2 or 3 whitish patches on sides of face. In flight, this species lacks large white patches on wings.

Voice

A mouse-like squeak and various low whistles.

Nesting

6-8 pale buff or cream-colored eggs in a mass of down concealed in a crevice in rocks along a stream.

Habitat

Swift-moving streams in summer; rocky, wave-lashed coasts and jetties in winter.

Range/Migration

Breeds from Alaska and Yukon south to Wyoming and Sierra Nevada of California, and from southern Baffin Island south to Labrador and Gaspe Peninsula. Winters along coasts south to central California and Long Island. Also in Eurasia.