Dec 19 2010
Harlequin ducks are named for the male’s colorful plumage. Not only does he look dramatic but he appears to be wearing a “harlequin” mask. From a distance the dot on his head masquerades as an eye, making him look like he’s facing the opposite direction.
His scientific name reinforces the theme: Histrionicus histrionicus, “dramatically exaggerated.”
These ducks have a dramatic lifestyle, too. They breed on fast flowing northern rivers and spend the winter in the most turbulent water on North America’s rocky coasts. They like turbulent water so much that many adult harlequins are found to have broken bones.
I have never seen a male harlequin duck but that’s because I haven’t spent time on our rocky coasts in winter. Eastern harlequin ducks are listed as endangered in Canada so I really should make the effort to see one.
Maybe I’ll visit Barnegat, New Jersey this winter. That’s where this bird was photographed.
(photo by Peter Massas from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the photo to see the original.)