The Harlequin Ducks breeding habitat is cold fast moving streams in north-western and north-eastern North America, Greenland, Iceland and western Russia. The nest is usually located in a well-concealed location on the ground near a stream. They are usually found near pounding surf and white water. They are short distance migrants and most winter near rocky shorelines on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. They are very rare migrants to western Europe.
Male – The male Harlequin Duck has a dark bluish-grey head and neck with a large white crescent patch between the eye and the blue-grey beak which extends over the crown and down the nape turning chestnut color, along with a black band from the beak running over the crown and down the nape, white spot on the ear-coverts and white patch on sides of neck, the chin, throat and front neck are black, upper-back and breast are grey, the flanks have large chestnut patches, a brownish-grey abdomen, white patches on body are bordered with black, and grey legs and feet.
Female – The female Harlequin Duck is sooty-brown with whitish patches on head.
Eclipse – The male in eclipse is similar to the female but retains white markings on the head, breast, and wings.
Size: – Typical Adult is 14-16 inches.
Food: – Crustaceans, Molluscs, insects, and larvae.
Habitat: – Fast moving streams, and coastal waters. The Eastern Harlequin is resident in Greenland, and Iceland, and the Pacific Harlequin is found in eastern Siberia, and North America. North American Harlequin winter further south along the coast of Maine.
Breeding Season: – Late May in Iceland, and late June in Arctic regions.
Eggs: – 5 to 6 (creamy-yellow color).
Notes: – The Harlequin Duck is a small sea duck. It gets its name because of a colorfully dressed character in Commedia dell’arte.
The different types of wild ducks can be grouped into puddle, aka “dabbling” and diving ducks. The dabblers mostly feed in smaller bodies of shallow water or along shorelines, where they are able to tip their bodies forward to reach their food on the bottom. There are divers who feed in deeper water where they dive and pursue their quarry. Some of these birds, the Harlequin Duck for example, actually dives to the bottom of fast-flowing waters and feeds on life forms attached to rocks.