Status and management of the harlequin duck
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Status and Management of the Harlequin Duck. BIO 586 Kayle Baker. Taxonomy. Kingdom- Animalia Phylum- Chordata Subphylum- Vertebrata Class- Aves Order- Anseriformes Family- Anatidae Genus- Histrionicus Lesson Species- Histrionicus histrionicus. Origin of Name.

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  • Kingdom- Animalia

  • Phylum- Chordata

  • Subphylum- Vertebrata

  • Class- Aves

  • Order- Anseriformes

  • Family- Anatidae

  • Genus- Histrionicus Lesson

  • Species- Histrionicus histrionicus

Origin of name
Origin of Name

  • From the latin word “histrio”

  • Meaning “actor”

  • Named for french and italian comic actors who dress up in colorful costumes

  • Similar to American vaudeville

General description
General Description

  • Diving duck

  • Size: small

  • Length: approximately 12 inches

  • Wingspan: 26 inches

  • Has dark wings

  • Weight: 18-26 ounces

  • Sexual maturity: 2-3 years

Adult males
Adult Males

  • Bluish gray body

  • White area surrounding bill

  • White cheek spots

  • White streaking on body and face

  • White scapula

  • Brown sides

  • Black tail

Adult females
Adult Females

  • Dull coloration (brown)

  • Pale stomach

  • Splotchy white

    crescent around bill

  • White cheek spots

Breeding and wintering ranges
Breeding and Wintering Ranges

  • Wintering occurs in coastal marine areas

  • Harlequin ducks

    winter at rocky

    coasts in the

    northern U.S. and


Breeding and wintering
Breeding and Wintering

  • Winter in the rocky coastal areas of the northern U.S. and Canada.

  • In May-June, they migrate to streams with fast moving water for breeding.

  • Males leave in June-July to moulting sites and are followed by the females after incubation of eggs.

  • Migrate back to wintering area in October-November

Female breeding
Female Breeding

  • Females are generally ground or crevice nesters.

  • Nests are hidden. Often under low brush or fallen trees.

  • Nests are lined with down, which is uncommon for ground nesters, but effective for the Harlequin duck, because of it’s dull color.

Female breeding cont d
Female Breeding cont’d

  • Females typically lay 3-8 eggs

  • Egg laying lasts for 2-4 days

  • Eggs are pale cream colored

  • Incubation lasts 28-32 days

  • Females are thought to possibly use their nest site for more than one year

  • Female will take ducklings to water within 24 hours of hatching

  • Ducklings have been seen playing in rapid moving water and near waterfalls.

  • Ducklings begin flying within 40-50 days of hatching

Distribution range
Distribution Range

  • There are two major populations of the Harlequin duck:

    The Atlantic and Pacific

  • These two populations are then subdivided into four regional populations:

    The Eastern North American, The Greenlandic, The Icelandic and the Pacific Population

  • Each of the four populations has it’s own conservation status

Population status
Population Status

  • Although the population status of the Pacific is the most stable of the four populations, it is considered to be in decline, with an estimated population of 1 million ducks.

  • The Icelandic and Greenlandic populations are estimated to have around 5000 ducks each.

  • The Eastern North American population is the smallest of the four with around 1000 ducks.

  • All populations are protected against hunting

Status cont d
Status Cont’d

  • The Harlequin Duck has been protected under the Migratory Birds Convention Act in Canada since 1917.

  • The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) designated the Eastern North American Population of Harlequin Ducks as “Endangered” in 1990.

  • In 2001, the Eastern Population was reclassified as a population of Special Concern due to numbers rising to a more acceptable level.

Causes of decline
Causes of Decline

  • Harlequin Ducks have a relatively small clutch size and in certain years, it has been estimated that only half of sexually mature adults will breed.

  • Reduction in food availability due to pollution killing aquatic invertebrates (duck’s main food source)

  • Human interaction and incidental harvesting.

  • Oil spills

  • Hydroelectric plants

  • Low- level flying disturbances

Management efforts
Management Efforts

Harlequin Duck (Eastern Population) Recovery Plan

  • Approved in 1994

  • Created by The Harlequin Duck Recovery Team, a 22 member committee

  • Designed to rebuild eastern population to at least 3,000 ducks by 2010.

  • Addresses concern about population isolation and discrepancies in population estimation.

Population analysis
Population Analysis

  • New population studies to determine accurate numbers in wintering and breeding ranges

  • Studies to evaluate population trends

  • Comprehensive studies in the fields of biology, ecology and genetics to further determine recovery needs.

  • Modeling, to assess the effects of management efforts

Timeline for research
Timeline for Research

  • 1994: monitoring resulted in sighting of 1,000 or more ducks. Sponsorship of a survey questionnaire to identify unknown breeding areas;

  • 1994-1995: Canada and U.S. worked together to create a wintering survey plan;

  • 1995-1996: Wintering and Breeding surveys conducted; populations estimated;

  • 1995-1996: research started to determine reproductive success;

  • 1997-1998: genetic studies conducted on Pacific and Atlantic populations determine that they are different. There is no difference determined between Atlantic populations. Studies continue because the sample size was very small.

Habitat management
Habitat Management

  • Habitat protection

  • Preventing oil spills: Wintering Ranges of the Harlequin duck are often located in oil rich areas or on shipping routes.

  • Preventing pollution of streams: acid rain causes reduced numbers of aquatic invertebrates and in turn can affect breeding.

  • Hydroelectric plants: effect water flow. Harlequin ducks are notoriously habitual about their breeding grounds.

Law enforcement education
Law Enforcement/ Education

  • Law enforcement to prevent hunting

  • Education programs to prevent the accidental harvest of harlequin duck and disturbance of it’s habitat (harassment of the ducks)

  • Handouts are given to hunters to help them distinguish between female and Juvenile harlequin ducks and other species such as scoters.


  • Although the Harlequin duck is protected by law, it is still a species in decline and of concern.

  • The Harlequin Duck Recovery Plan is a comprehensive effort to maintain and rebuild population status, but the process is slow and often depends on human participation.

  • The main goal of the Recovery Plan is to re-establish a population in Eastern North America of at least 3000 ducks, by 2010.

  • Further studies on genetic isolation between the Eastern populations are pending.

The end
The End

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