The Harlequin

Source: New York Public Library, Public Domain Archive

The Harlequin is a comic character in the Italian commedia dell’arte that is known for his colorful costume. One of the ducks that visit us in the winter is named for this character. These photos will show how well that name applies.

These are males and they are the inspiration for the name. They are one of the most colorful ducks we see.

The females are, as is typical for most birds, more subdued in appearance. But they are still a pretty duck, as you can see in this picture. She’s the one at bottom-center.

More males posing and riding the surf.

These Harlequin Ducks were part of a large flock that we were observing from a bluff in Rockport Massachusetts overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. They flew back and forth several times and really showed off their colors in the morning light.

Harlequins breed in the far north along whitewater rivers and winter along rocky coasts like the one we were on. They spend their time foraging in rough water and as a result have the most broken bones of any bird. But this guy didn’t break anything when he landed and surfed to a stop.

We have many species of duck come to winter with us here in New England. The Harlequin is one of the favorites.

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