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How a Harlequin Duck wintering in British Columbia landed on our cover

Harlequin Duck at Victoria, British Columbia ©2009 Glenn Bartley
Harlequin Duck at Victoria, British Columbia ©2009 Glenn Bartley

The handsome male Harlequin Duck on the cover of our February 2016 issue was photographed in October 2009 in Victoria, British Columbia, a popular wintering spot for our most colorful sea duck.

Professional photographer and author Glenn Bartley photographed the bird, and as you can see above, the original shot is horizontal. We cropped it vertically for the cover. In the issue’s cover story, writer Cheryl Lyn Dybas describes the small Eastern Population of the duck, one of only four waterfowl species in the world with an affinity for nesting along fast-flowing inland rivers and streams.

BirdWatching, February 2016
BirdWatching, February 2016. Harlequin Duck by Glenn Bartley, Blue Jay (inset) by Paul Reeves/Shutterstock

The larger Pacific Population of Harlequins winters along the Pacific coast, from Alaska to California, as well as in Russia, Korea, and Japan. The coasts of British Columbia and Washington comprise the heart of the western North American wintering range.

Harlequins occur in the area from mid-September through mid-April. Studies have shown that birds wintering in British Columbia waters breed inland in the province and in Alberta, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.

Bartley says he typically finds the birds in groups of 4-10, though it’s not unheard of to see flocks as large as 50. He found this bird along the southern edge of Victoria, on the Straight of Juan de Fuca. He says Harlequins often feed for a while and then sit still on rocks for 10-15 minutes, allowing great photo opportunities. In this shot, autumn leaves reflecting off the water in the background and an engaging pose from the bird produced a stunning portrait.

To make the photo, Bartley used the following equipment and settings:

Camera: Canon EOS 50D
Lens: EF500mm f/4L IS USM +1.4x
Shutter speed: 1/1000 sec
Aperture: 8
Exposure compensation: -1/3
Flash: Off
ISO: 400

Read Glenn Bartley’s description of Goldstream Provincial Park, Victoria, British Columbia.

See a range map and hear recordings of Harlequin Duck.

Five views of dazzling Harlequin Duck, and how to identify it.

Find birding hotspots in British Columbia.


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