Dean M. Chriss
Harlequin Duck, Male, Yellowstone River

Harlequin Duck, Male, Yellowstone River, Wyoming

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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.

Copyright 2021 Dean M. Chriss