Histrionicus histrionicus


The Harlequin Duck's name derives from the adult males plumage, which is said to resemble the painted faces and colored clothing of early Italian stage players. This bird feeds on aquatic insects during the summer and crustaceans during the winter.


General: 13 to 21 inches in length.

Adult Male: Slate blue-gray head and body. Chestnut brown flanks. White patch at the base of the bill that extends across crown. White ear patch. White streak on side of neck. Large, white crescent on breast. White scapulars. Small, grayish bill. Chestnut patch near top of head. Dark wings. Black tail. Immature male similar, but duller.

Adult Female: Dark brownish-gray head and body. Pale belly. Light cheeks and spots above the eye and over the ear. Small, grayish bill. Dark wings. Smaller than male.


Winter along rocky salt water coasts. Summers along freshwater mountain rivers and swift-moving streams.


4-8 pale buff or cream colored eggs. The eggs have a 28-30 day incubation period. Fledging occurs in 40-70 days. The nest is a mass of down concealed in a rock crevice along a stream bed. The male leaves after the eggs are laid.

Observed Locations:

  • De Anza Cove, Mission Bay

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