Histrionicus histrionicus: Harlequin duck–The Race Rocks Taxonomy

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Histrionicus histrionicus –Harlequin Duck

In the fall of 2006, there was a large flock of males and females around the shores of the island. They were frequently visible in the waters and shoreline around the docks. These pictures were captured on the remote camera 5 by Pam Birley.

Interesting Facts:

  • English name from characters in Italian comedy that wear a mask and have an oddly painted costume
  • Locally may be called “rock ducks” due to their habit of staying out on rocks.
  • Population of 200 – 300 thousand on the West Coast but endangered on the Atlantic Coast
  • A group of up to 30 harlequins overwinter at Race Rocks, arriving in early November and departing in the spring, numbers vary as they come and go during that time.


  • Length: 12 inches
  • Wingspan: 26 inches
  • Small diving duck
  • Small gray bill
  • Dark wings

Males have a striking feathers with dark blue, dark orange, and white streaks
Females are discrete and have a subtle brown color that camouflages them for nesting

Ryan Murphy has an album of images of Harlequin ducks which he took while he was an Ecoguardian at Race Rocks- 2009-2011.

Biotic Associations:

  • Predation from Sea Lions ( We have seen them leave the water and come up on the rocks when sea lions are near.)
  • Spend majority of time feeding in Kelp Beds on aquatic invertebrates and lesser quantities of fish.


Freshwater invertebrates

  • Fish eggs consumed when available
  • Use their stubby bill to pry invertebrates such as snails, limpets, crabs, chitons, and mussels from the rocks
    during the winter months
  • In the late winter months they feed on herring spawn in large congregations.

Domain : Eukarya
Kingdom:  Animalia
Phylum : Chordata
Subphylum:  Vertebrata
Class : Aves
Order:  Anseriformes
Family:  Anatidae
Genus:  Histrionicus
Species: histrionicus
COMMON NAME: Harlequin Duck

See other posts on this website with reference to Harlequin Ducks

Other Members of the Class Aves at Race Rocks.

taxonomyiconReturn to the Race Rocks Taxonomy
and Image File
pearsonlogo2_f2The Race Rocks taxonomy is a collaborative venture originally started with the Biology and Environmental Systems students of Lester Pearson College UWC. It now also has contributions added by Faculty, Staff, Volunteers and Observers on the remote control webcams.

This file was originally produced by Dec. 2001 Karim Ladha (PC yr 27)