Harteman Wildfowl, presented by Jan Harteman

Harlequin duck

Histrionicus histrionicus

Harlekijneend / Kragenente / Arlequin plongeur

 

The harlequin duck is a small sea duck. It takes its name from Harlequin (French Arlequin, Italian Arlecchino), a colourfully dressed character in Commedia dell'arte. The species name comes from the Latin word "histrio", "actor".

 

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Above: adult drake Harlequin duck

 

Their breeding habitat is cold fast moving streams in north-western and north-eastern North America, Greenland, Iceland and westernRussia. 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.

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.

 

These birds feed by swimming under water or diving. They also dabble. They eat molluscscrustaceans and insects. Harlequins have smooth, densely packed feathers that trap a lot of air within them. This is vital for insulating such small bodies against the chilly waters they ply. It also makes them exceptionally buoyant, making them bounce like corks after dives.

 

The species is traditionally considered monotypic. The Eastern and Western populations are sometimes recognized as two different subspecies, the Eastern race being the nominate H. histrionicus histrionicus, and the Western race as H. h. pacificus, but there has been doubt on the validity of this taxon.

 

This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern (IUCN, 2012).

 

The global population is estimated to number c.190,000-380,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2006), while national population sizes have been estimated at <c.100 breeding pairs and c.50-10,000 wintering individuals in Japan and c.10,000-100,000 breeding pairs and c.1,000-10,000 wintering individuals in Russia (Brazil 2009).

 

 

This species is found breeding on swifts torrents and rapid streams of rugged uplands, normally wintering on rocky coastlines. It feeds mainly on insects and their larvae in summer, catching molluscs and crustaceans in winter. Feeding mostly occurs mostly by diving, but also dabbling and head-dipping in shallow water. Breeding begins in May or June, nesting on the ground concealed in vegetation (del Hoyo et al. 1992).

 

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Above: adult pair of Harlequin ducks (female in front)

 

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Above: adult female Harlequin duck

 

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Above: adult drake Harlequin duck

 

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Above: adult drake Harlequin duck

 

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Above: adult drake Harlequin duck

 

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Above: adult drake Harlequin duck

 

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Above: adult drake Harlequin duck

 

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Above: adult drakes Harlequin duck

 

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Above: adult female Harlequin duck

 

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Above: adult drake Harlequin duck

 

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Above: adult drakes Harlequin duck

 

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Above: adult group of Harlequin duck (Sylvan Heights Bird Park, NC, USA)

 

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Above: adult Harlequin ducks in their aviary (Sylvan Heights Bird Park, NC, USA)

 

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Above: adult Harlequin ducks in their aviary (Sylvan Heights Bird Park, NC, USA)

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