There are a number of reasons why I decided to take on this project. My first reason has to do with my interest in birds. This began shortly after moving to Victoria ten and a half years ago. With our house backing onto a wooded area, the chirping of birds is a familiar sound all year long. I often glance out the window to see birds of all forms in the yard throughout the day. Frequently I will pull out the Birds of Victoria or Birds of North America reference guides we have on hand. Unfortunately, the drawings in the first aren’t overly helpful for identification and the number of entries in the second is overwhelming. My second reason has to do with a photography course I took a number of years ago. Since that time I have been trying to think of a practical reason to buy a new camera. Taking pictures of birds requires a powerful zoom lens which my previous point-and-shoot camera could not accommodate. Perfect! My final reason was my desire to take on a new project to welcome in 2011. Hence, bird of the day was born.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Harlequin Duck

Histrionicus histrionicus

Small duck
Short bill
Male: (above)                                                        
    Gray-blue plumage                            
    Chestnut flanks                                  
    White striped on body and head        
    White at base of bill                               
    Round, white ear patch
Female: (below)
    Plain brown-gray plumage
    Dark brown head                  
    Two or three white face spots, including ear patch
    White belly with brown speckles

Listen to its call.

With the male's multi-coloured plumage, it is pretty clear where the harlequin duck gets its name. Seen at a distance, the male's bill blends in with his dark face giving his head a triangular appearance.  I've come across these birds numerous times at Cattle Point, if you want to get a closer look.  One interesting thing I've noticed about ducks is that they usually travel in pairs.  Anyone know if all ducks mate for life? I've read that geese are monogomous but there seems to be conflicting views about ducks.  One person noted they "may appear to pair-bond, but there's lots of fooling-around going on in the bushes".

Learn more about the Harlequin Duck.

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