The Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus) is a species of duck which is a rare vagrant to Britain.
Adult males are slate blue with chestnut sides and white markings including a white crescent at the base of the bill. Adult females are less colourful, with brownish-grey plumage and a white patch on the head around the eye. Both adults have a white ear-patch. It has a length of 38-45cm, and a wingspan of 63-69cm.
Distribution and habitatEdit
Their 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 and is sometimes blown over to Britain.
These birds feed by swimming under water or diving. They also dabble. They eat molluscs, crustaceans 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.