14 1/2-21" (37-53 cm). Intricate pattern of white, gray, black, and cinnamon. Head has a black stripe from bill to back of neck; two white stripes on either side of black stripe descending to base of bill with a splash; third stripe is cinnamon above a dark gray cheek; cheek has white ear patch and a white vertical stripe on side of neck; gray bill. Gray breast has two vertical white stripes edged with black. Back and wings are gray. Cinnamon flanks. Females are a mixture of gray and brown with white ear patches.
Similar Species- Female Bufflehead
A toy bugle-like awa-awaa.
Breeds from Alaska and western Canada, south to eastern Oregon, east-central California, Idaho, and Wyoming; also breeds in eastern Canada. Winters from Aleutian and Pribilof islands, south to central California; also winters from Maritime Provinces south to Maryland.
Winters in rough, coastal waters, especially along rocky shores. In Idaho, breeds on forested mountain streams of relatively low gradient free of human disturbance.
Feeds primarily on crustaceans, mollusks, insects, and a few small fishes (98% of diet consists of animal food).
In Idaho, hens nest in cliff cavities, tree cavities, and on ground. Breeding pairs show strong fidelity to breeding streams year after year. Preliminary study data indicate some Idaho birds migrate to San Juan Islands, WA, in winter. Birds migrate to Idaho from Pacific Coast in April and females return to coast in August or September with males returning earlier. Entire Idaho population is less than 100 birds on about 30 streams in northern Idaho.
Cassirer, E.F., C.R. Groves, and R.L. Wallen. 1991. Distribution and population status of Harlequin Ducks in Idaho. Wilson Bull. 103:723-725.