Monday, December 10, 2012

Harlequin Duck

Harlequin Ducks breed and feed in the turbulent white water of mountain streams of Labrador, Newfoundland, and the Rocky Mountains of Northwestern North America. After copulating, the males retire to the North Pacific and North Atlantic oceans, where they loaf around until they are joined by the females and young late in the summer. The Upper Midwest is definitely out of this species’ range. Yet I have seen this duck in South Dakota and Minnesota. This photograph, taken a couple of winters ago, is from Prescott, Wisconsin, where a male (the same individual?) appeared for several winters. In Minnesota, Harlequin Ducks are more often seen along Lake Superior. Where did these birds breed? Because eastern populations are quite low—perhaps under 1500 birds—a good guess would be these birds are from somewhere in the Northern Rocky Mountains.

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