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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

Did You Know? Incredible Harlequin Duck Facts

Discover a few harlequin duck facts about this small sea duck with a colorful patterned appearance.

The harlequin duck is a beautifully patterned sea duck and its unique name is derived from the character Harlequin, a flamboyantly dressed character known for a patterned and checkered look. Harlequin ducks belong to the kingdom of Animalia, class of Aves, and family of Anatidae. The scientific name of this duck species originates from the Latin word 'histrio', which translates to 'actor'. These North American birds are also known as lords and ladies.

The eastern populace of harlequin ducks is recorded as Endangered on the Atlantic Coast, which makes them incredibly rare there. The typical harlequin duck habitat is found along the eastern coasts of North America and eastern Russia. They are usually found on rushing rivers in summer, diving and swimming against the current, and then climbing up onto slippery and steep rocks above the water. When migrating inland, pairs of harlequin ducks often fly low, following each twist and turn of the stream with great ease, rather than taking overland routes. Chicks leave the nest shortly after hatching yet remain near the nesting area for a few weeks.

Here on our page, we have lots of harlequin duck facts that everyone will enjoy. If you like these, do also read our goose and duck facts here too!

Harlequin Duck Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a harlequin duck?

The harlequin duck (Histrionicus histrionicus) is a small seagoing species that lived along the coasts of eastern Russia and North America. These birds are colorful with striking and contrasting patterns on their heads, necks, chests, and wings. They are found by blue rivers and mountain streams, near to heavily vegetated areas.

What class of animal does a harlequin duck belong to?

The harlequin duck (Histrionicus Histrionicus) belongs to the class of Aves and the family Anatidae.

How many harlequin ducks are there in the world?

It is estimated that there are around 200,000 to 300,000 harlequin ducks in the western population. The eastern North American population consists of around 1000 individuals. Historically, the east coast population had been estimated at around 5,000 to 10,000 birds.

Where does a harlequin duck live?

During winter, these birds nest along the coasts of the ocean, and during summer, they live farther inland but still proximate to the shores. These birds prefer fast-paced mountain streams and regions with rocks and dense forests with a lot of shrubberies. In winter seasons, these ducks choose the roughest coastal water, with rocks pounded by the surf. The harlequin duck makes her nest under rocky ledges, in tree cavities, and under roots, bushes or logs. The nest is located in a well-hidden location, and offspring breed at the age of two. These ducks are most common in North America along the outer coast islands all the way up to the southern highlands of central Mexico and Alaska.

What is a harlequin duck's habitat?

The habitat choice of harlequin ducks mainly depends on the season at hand. When these ducks breed, they live alongside rivers and streams. They migrate to the sea during the winter season and live along the coasts with rocks and shallow water in the northern United States. They leave their winter homes by March, traveling to the western Aleutian Islands and Russia or Alaska. The harlequin duck's winter habitat range reportedly extends from the Pribilof Islands (south of the Bering Sea) to the Aleutian Islands.

Who do harlequin ducks live with?

Harlequin ducks live among their own kind and can easily coexist with other species of ducks that share their habitat.

How long does a harlequin duck live?

The average lifespan of these Northern American birds ranges from 12 to 14 years in the wild. They are short-distance migrants and most harlequin ducks spend winter near rocky shorelines where there is great surf and white water.

How do they reproduce?

In many bird species, a clean and bright plumage is a good sign of a healthy bird, and therefore female harlequin ducks choose males with the brightest and cleanest feathers for nesting during the breeding season. Male harlequins breed with a new partner every year and a female lays around five eggs to eight eggs in the breeding season and incubates them for about a month.

Soon after hatching, ducklings follow their mother, who leads them safely in search of food. Most ducklings learn to fly when they are about two months old after hatching and stay with their mother until it is finally time to migrate. Offspring also end up nesting when they are mature enough and migrate to the same wintering ground.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status and population of these North American birds in the Pacific Northwest region currently appear to be stable and they are listed as Least Concern. However, these ducks have been listed as a priority species by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Harlequin ducks are prone to many potential threats, including hunting, shoreline development, fishing nets, and oil spills. The conservation status of these birds is not endangered currently though.

However, in Washington, logging is probably the most significant threat to these birds as it removes suitable forests along streams while also adding small particles of dirt and mud to their habitats. This, by large, reduces the harlequin duck's range of prey. These ducks take a few years to reach maturity. They bounce back from threats pretty slowly, so great care must be taken to prevent a negative impact on their population.

Harlequin Duck Fun Facts

What do harlequin ducks look like?

These ducks are small, compact waterfowl with a large, rounded head, a small bill, and a steep forehead. Breeding male harlequin ducks are slate blue in color and have interesting patterns on their plumage, with white stripes and chestnut sides. Their head is marked with a white crescent in front of the eye and chestnut highlights along the brow. Females are a faint gray with striking white patches on their faces.

Male Harlequins are a spectacular blue with white stripes along their body and chestnut sides.

How cute are they?

Harlequin ducks are ridiculously cute and never fail to put a smile on people's faces. Because of their energetic and amiable persona, harlequins are usually known as the 'clowns of the duck world'. These ducks are truly one of the more gorgeous breeds of ducks and these beautiful ducks also show a unique personality: they are curious, friendly, gentle, and calm.

How do they communicate?

Harlequin ducks emit squeaking sounds that are similar to the sound that mice make. Sometimes females utter harsh tones that go 'eek-eek-eek-eek'.

How big is a harlequin duck?

The average harlequin duck size is relatively small. The size of males ranges between 17.3-20 in (43.9-50.8 cm), and the size of females ranges from 14.2-15.8 in (36-40 cm). The length of the wingspan ranges from 24-27.5 in (61-70 cm). Males weigh around 17.3-26.8 oz (490-760 g), and the weight of females ranges between 16.6-23.6 oz (470-670 g).

Can a harlequin duck fly?

Harlequins, just like a majority of duck breeds, do not fly. This species can run and jump up a couple of feet for a sustained flight of about 11 in (28 cm) off the ground.

How much does a harlequin duck weigh?

The weight of males ranges between 17.3-26.8 oz (490-760 g), and the weight of females is 16.6-23.6 oz (470-670 g).

What are their male and female names of the species?

Male and female harlequin ducks do not have specific different names.

What would you call a baby harlequin duck?

A harlequin duck's young are called ducklings.

What do they eat?

The harlequin duck diet is fundamentally carnivorous, and this bird's diet largely comprises invertebrates. These ducks eat insects, shrimp, larvae, small crabs, clams, snails, mussels, and small fish in coastal regions. While a harlequin duck hunting for food may dive to catch its prey, this usually takes place in deeper waters. In shallow water, they love dabbling just below the water surface. These birds like flipping upside down into the water with their feet sticking out into the air and they then use their slender necks to scan for prey. On their breeding grounds, they eat aquatic insects such as midges and also fish eggs. When in rivers, they eat aquatic insects as well as small amounts of plants.

Are they friendly?

These species of ducks are amiable and docile birds. They spend the majority of their time searching for food. They feed in shallow water streams and rivers, where they dive deeper to catch prey. Unlike most waterfowls, these birds can swim in fast-moving and rough waters. These birds migrate seasonally, and each regional population undergoes its own migration route. Male and female harlequin ducks migrate at different times of year because females must live longer to raise their young ones.

Would they make a good pet?

No, these species of ducks do not make good pets. Although they are beautiful, they are wild animals that shouldn't be confined to domestic living. It is illegal to own a harlequin duck as a pet in several places.

Did you know...

Female harlequin ducks are dedicated mothers, even before their ducklings are hatched! When she builds her nest, she pulls out a large patch of feathers on her underside and adds those feathers to the nest to make a cushion and incubate the eggs. The ensuing bald patch on the skin of the female harlequin duck helps to keep eggs warm more efficiently during incubation.

Are harlequin ducks rare?

Harlequin ducks have a steadily increasing population in the world, giving them the status of Least Concern. However, the eastern population of North American and Canadian harlequin ducks has been listed as Endangered in varying degrees and in different regions. It is said that there are less than 1000 recorded harlequin ducks in the eastern populace of North America and Canada.

Where to see harlequin ducks in the US?

The harlequin duck's range in North America extends from the northern United States to the Alaskan west coast. They breed in the north of Québec and Nunavut on the east coast and come to spend winter in the United States northeast. The harlequin duck is abundant during its breeding season in this range. This duck leaves its wintering grounds in late March and then heads further inland towards its summer territory before returning and reuniting on the same wintering grounds in fall.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds including the greater sage grouse, or the mantis shrimp.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Harlequin duck coloring pages.

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