Harlequin Duck

General description.

Adult males have a white crescent at the base of the bill. Both adults have a white ear-patch. "Histrionicus histrionicus", is a small sea duck. It takes its name from "Harlequin" in French, a colourfully dressed character in Commedia dell'arte. The species name comes from the Latin word "histrio", "actor". In North America it is also known as "Lords and Ladies". A strong "surfer", the "Harlequin Duck" is adept at riding a wave up against the rocks and quickly tearing away loose snails, limpets and barnacles to eat.

Female appearance.

Adult females are less colourful, with brownish-grey plumage and two or three white patches on the sides of the head around the eye.

Breeding habits.

The Harlequin visits inland streams to breed in Alaska and Yukon south to Wyoming and the Sierra Nevada of California, also from southern Baffin Island south to Labrador and the Gaspe Peninsula. As soon as the female starts incubating, the male returns to the sea to molt.

Population and distribution.

The "Harlequin Duck" spends most of its life on salt water, preferring the rugged seacoast, except during breeding season. It winters along coasts south to central California and Long Island.

Nesting habits.

The female "Harlequin Duck" fashions a nest of down in which she lays 6-8 cream-colored eggs. This she conceals in a crevice in rocks along a stream.
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