Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus) is a small sea duck. In North America it is also
known as Lords and ladies. Other names include painted duck, totem pole duck,
rock duck, glacier duck, mountain duck, white-eyed diver, squeaker and blue
The Harlequin Duck takes its name from Arlecchino, Harlequin in
French, a colorfully dressed character in Commedia dell'arte. The species name
comes from the Latin word "histrio", "actor".
this is the only species of its genus. Two prehistoric harlequin ducks were
described from fossils, although both were initially placed in a distinct genus:
Histrionicus shotwelli is known from Middle to Late Miocene deposits of Oregon,
USA and was considered to form a distinct monotypic (one single species) genus,
Ocyplonessa. Histrionicus ceruttii, which lived in California during the Late
Pliocene, was at first taken to be a species of the related genus
Harlequins have smooth, densely packed feathers
that trap a lot of air within them. This is vital for insulating such small
bodies against the chilly waters they ply. It also makes them exceptionally
buoyant, making them bounce like corks after dives. Both adults have a white ear
Adult males are slate blue with
chestnut sides and white markings including a white crescent at the base of the
Adult females are less colorful,
with brownish-grey plumage and a white patch on the head around the eye.
Immature Birds: Look like adult females, but have
The Female Bufflehead Duck has one spot on face and
extensive white in wings.
larger, have more sloped foreheads and larger bills.
Distribution / Range:
Their breeding habitat
is cold fast moving streams in north-western and north-eastern North America,
Greenland, Iceland and western Russia.
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.
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.
They are usually found near pounding surf and white
nest is usually located in a well-concealed location on the ground near a
stream. It is often hidden under rocks and in crevices.
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Harlequin ducks feed by swimming
under water or diving to the bottom of fast-flowing rivers for food. Their diet
consists mostly of insects, insect eggs and larvae, mollusks and
Ducks generally feed on larvae and pupae often found under
rocks, as well as aquatic animals, plant material, seeds, small fish, snails and
Feeding Ducks ...
We all enjoy ducks and
many of us offer them food to encourage them to come over and stay around - and
it works! Who doesn't like an easy meal!
However, the foods that we
traditionally feed them at local ponds are utterly unsuitable for them and are
likely to cause health problems down the road. Also, there may be local laws
against feeding this species of bird - so it's best to check on that rather than
facing consequences at a later stage.
Please note that feeding ducks and geese makes them dependent on
humans for food, which can result in starvation and possibly death
when those feedings stop. If you decide to feed them, please limit the
quantity to make sure that they maintain their natural ability to forage for
food themselves - providing, of course, that natural food sources are
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