Dean M. Chriss
Harlequin Duck, Male, Yellowstone River, Wyoming
(Click image to enlarge)
The word Harlequin (French Arlequin, Italian Arlecchino)
refers to a colorfully dressed character in Commedia dell'arte. That description
is quite appropriate for this bird. The duck's Latin species name "Histrionicus histrionicus"
comes from the Latin word "histrio", meaning "actor".
The harlequin duck's breeding habitat is cold fast moving streams in
north-western and north-eastern North America, Greenland, Iceland and
eastern Russia. Harlequin ducks locate their nests in well-concealed areas
on the ground, usually near pounding surf or white water. They are short
distance migrants that winter near rocky shorelines on the Atlantic and
Pacific coasts and they are rare migrants to western Europe.
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.