Language English The Gulf of St. Lawrence Photo: Biodôme Photo: Biodôme Photo: Biodôme OngletsDescriptionDistinguishing features The adult male is metallic leaden blue with chestnut flanks. It can be identified by the white patch between the bill and eyes and the narrow white collar around the neck. The tail is black and the wings are banded with white. The female has brownish plumage and can be identified by the three white patches on the side of the head. Reproduction These birds build their nests on the ground or in a tree stump, well hidden in vegetation, less than five metres from a stream or river. The female lays four to seven eggs, which are incubated for 27 to 30 days. The female builds the nest, incubates the eggs and raises the young on her own. Harlequin ducks appear to nest in the same spot from one year to the next. Very few nests have ever been found in Quebec. The male leaves the female as soon as incubation begins. He then moults at sea and joins other non-breeding individuals. In late summer, the females and their young join the males in their wintering grounds. Diet To feed, they dive, wings spread, to the bottom of well-oxygenated streams or rivers with swift currents. Their diet consists mainly of black fly larvae and pupae, along with small fish, mussels, snails, crustaceans, marine worms, algae, fish eggs, crabs and aquatic insect larvae. Predators Their most common enemies are weasels, great horned owls and various species of raptors. Habitat During the nesting period, they stay close to water, primarily because of the abundance of food. At other times, harlequin ducks frequent rough, rocky shorelines along the coast and islands. In winter, the largest concentrations of this species are found in the northeastern United States and Atlantic Canada. Ecology, behaviour These ducks are usually rather silent. They bob their heads slightly when swimming. They spend most of their time in a group, outside of the nesting period, when pairs break off from the group. They are named for the famous character from Italian commedia dell'arte. French nameArlequin plongeur Scientific nameHistrionicus histrionicusPhylumChordataClassBirdsOrderAnseriformesFamilyAnatidae (geese and ducks)Size48 to 58 cmWeightMale: 630 to 1,134 g; female: 680 to 997 gLife span12 to 14 years.StatusLeast concern (IUCN); special concern (COSEWIC); vulnerable (Quebec MRNF).