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The Ivory Bill·Birds·Ducks & Grebes

Harlequin Ducks, Histrionicus histrionicus

Harlequin ducks on a wet sandy shore

Harlequin Ducks inhabit fast-flowing, rocky streams and rivers near coastal areas. During the breeding season, they prefer to nest along mountainous regions with clear, cold water and abundant insect life. They can be found along the coastal areas of North America, including Alaska, western Canada, and parts of the northwestern United States. Some populations also breed in eastern Russia and winter in coastal areas of Japan.

Harlequin Ducks are diving ducks with exceptional diving and swimming abilities. They can navigate through turbulent streams and rapids with ease, using their webbed feet and strong wings for stability. Their ability to cling to rocks with their sharp claws makes them well adapted to their rocky habitats.

They primarily feed on aquatic invertebrates such as insects, crustaceans, mollusks, and small fish. They forage underwater, diving to considerable depths to capture their prey. Their serrated bills help them grasp and hold onto slippery prey.

They produce a variety of sounds, including soft whistles and distinctive “tick” calls. Their courtship displays involve head-bobbing, wing-flashing, and vocalizations.

During the breeding season, Harlequin Ducks nest near fast-flowing streams and rivers. The females select nest sites in rock crevices, caves, or under vegetation close to the water. They line the nests with down feathers and plant material. The nests are typically well hidden and provide protection for the eggs and young.

Female Harlequin Ducks lay a clutch of 4-6 creamy white eggs. Incubation lasts for about 30 days and is primarily undertaken by the female. The male leaves shortly after mating and does not contribute to incubation or care of the young.

Once the eggs hatch, the female leads the ducklings to the water within a day or two. The young are precocial and quickly start feeding on aquatic invertebrates. The ducklings fledge within 45-60 days after hatching depending on food availability and other factors.

During the non-breeding season, some populations migrate to coastal areas with calmer waters, including bays, estuaries, and rocky shorelines. Others may move to more protected areas within their breeding range, where open water remains available.