Although many ducks often have trouble hiding when the hunting season arrives, some family members have adapted very well. As is the case with the harlequin duck.
Where does this species live?
The harlequin duck, known by the scientific name of histrionicus histrionicus, is a species of anseriform bird, belonging to the Anatidae family, and is the only member of the histrionicus genus.
This species is found in North America, eastern Russia, southern Greenland and Iceland. On some occasions, some divagating specimens have been found in Western Europe.
What does it look like?
It is a bird that with the naked eye would be unmistakable, since its body is full of colors. It measures between 38-51 cm and can weigh up to 350 grams. It presents a strong sexual dimorphism.
Most of its body is covered by black feathers, with white stripes distributed differently according to the specimen. Only at the bottom has a reddish-brown color, free of these white lists.
Its chest and back area is a lighter, darker color, turning gray. In this case, the white stripes are combined with black stripes. This peculiar aspect is what gives it a good camouflage. The female, on the other hand, lacks those colorful ones that the male has, having a browner plumage. They only share a white speck on the sides.
Two subspecies have been recognized:
- Histrionicus histrionicus histrionicus histrionicus: This species is mainly found in the northern part of America.
- Histrionicus histrionicus pacificus: The most common in the eastern part of the European continent.
What is the behavior of this species?
This bird’s food is composed of aquatic plants, which it gets by swimming underwater or diving. It turns the body in shallow water in order to, with the movement of the legs, weaken the attachment of the plants to the ground and grasp them with its beak. Apart from plants, they also consume molluscs and crustaceans.
The mating season depends on where they are. The female lays five to seven, sometimes up to ten eggs, of a cream colour. Incubation is done by the female for 27-30 days. When it must leave the nest, cover the eggs with down to keep them warm.
When the chicks hatch, they leave the nest from day one, going with their mother to the water, where, together with their father, they feed them regurgitating aquatic plants. Although they develop early, some harlequin ducks may take more than three months to leave the nest.
During the development of the offspring the parents cannot fly, as they change the feather. It is a species that can reproduce twice a year, but it is not uncommon for a couple to have only one pair at a time. Unlike other duck species, it is not so hunted, as its peculiar plumage makes it ideal for hiding when it feels the danger.
In addition, they do not usually live near urban areas, with areas with many tall plants to hide in in case a potential predator may appear.