Now is the time to see wintering Harlequin Ducks, the subject of Cheryl Lyn Dybas’s cover story of our February 2016 issue.
Winter strongholds for the sea duck include the Strait of Georgia, British Columbia, or Dungeness NWR, Washington; Cape Saint Mary’s, Newfoundland; Isle au Haut, Maine; and Sachuest Point NWR or Beavertail State Park, Rhode Island. Photographer Harry Collins found the adult male above at another good spot: Barnegat Light, New Jersey, our Hotspot Near You No. 77.
Harlequins typically arrive during the first week of October, and their numbers increase until mid-December. The ducks remain until the beginning of April, when they start returning to their breeding grounds. By late May, they are usually all gone.
There’s no mistaking a male Harlequin viewed from close range. But seen from a distance, as above, the same dark blue and brick-red bird can appear mostly black. When it does, it’s best to concentrate on the duck’s small size and unique shape.
Harlequin Duck is smaller and weighs less than all other sea ducks — Common Eider weighs more than three times as much — and its bill is smaller and stubbier than any scoter’s.
What’s more, the patterns created by a Harlequin’s white feathers are unique: On males, a small white dot and a large white crescent mark the face, and white stripes bordered with black outline the chest. On females, look for three blurry white spots on the face: a dot behind the eye, a tiny smudge in front of the eye, and a smear below it.
Our February 2016 issue containing Cheryl Lyn Dybas’s article about Harlequin Duck will appear on newsstands at Barnes & Noble and other retailers on January 5. Digital editions of the issue were published on December 21, 2015.
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