Harlequin Duck

Harlequin Duck

Harlequin Ducks are small, extremely striking sea ducks. They are instantly recognizable because of their unique multi-color and multi-patterned features. Breeding males are more colorful than females. 

They have slate blue color on their head, neck, and body and reddish sides and crowns. Black bordered white stripes line their chest, neck, and head, and a white dot behind their eyes. They also have white markings on their back.

Non-breeding males have brown bodies but the facial markings of breeding males.

Females are generally brown all over with three recognizable white markings on their heads – a small patch on top of the eye, another small patch in front of their bill, and a small dot behind the eye.

  • Histrionicus histrionicus
  • Length: 15 – 21 in (38 – 53 cm)
  • Weight: 24 oz (680 g)
  • Wingspan: 26 – 28 in (66 – 71 cm)


Harlequin Ducks breed in eastern and western Canada near the coasts and Alaska before migrating short distances to the Canadian coasts and the coasts of northeastern US states.

Habitat And Diet

You can find Harlequin Ducks in fast-moving mountain streams and rivers and pounding surf and white water during the summer. In winter, you can find them on rocky, wave-lashed coasts, wherever there are turbulent waters. 

Harlequin Ducks are excellent swimmers and divers used to their harsh surroundings. They easily swim through tough currents and dive for food underwater. In the process, they may get dashed against the rocks because of the turbulent waves. They eat mollusks and crustaceans, small fish, and marine worms. They also eat aquatic insects that they find on the bottom of rivers.

Harlequin Duck Calls


Nests of Harlequin Ducks are often found on the ground near the water. They may be concealed in a tree cavity, a tree stump, or a rock crevice. They are usually just a shallow depression made of grasses, twigs, and weeds and lined with down. The female lays three to ten eggs that she has to incubate for about a month. 

Fun Fact:

Harlequin ducks are sometimes called the “Sea Mouse” because of their mouse-like squeaks. They are also sometimes referred to as “painted ducks” because of their attractive colors.