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Sunday’s Duck O’ the Week

Evolutionist John Avise is educating us, Sunday by Sunday, about the ducks of North America. Your job is to look at the pictures below, then go below the fold to see the ID, some duck facts, and a range map of the species. John’s introduction::

The drakes of this week’s species look like creatures that might have been dreamed up by Pablo Picasso.  But we have the hens to thank for wielding the paintbrush of sexual selection that presumably crafted the artistic plumages of these males.

Okay, name that duck!

Click “read more” to get the ID and other information.

The species: Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus)

Drakes of this surreally dressed duck are aptly named after a 17th-century Italian comedic stock actor who always dressed in variegated multicolored tights.  The species has an equally peculiar life history.  During the breeding season, these birds favor fast-flowing, high-latitude streams and whitewater stretches of rivers before moving to lakes and slower river sections after the chicks have hatched.  However, in the winter they are found primarily along rocky North Atlantic and North Pacific seacoasts, where they sometimes stand on boulders during the day and sleep offshore at night.  I took most of these photos at Monterey Bay in Central California, near the southern terminus of the species’ winter range.

And a range map from the Cornell site. John looks like he was just within the species’ range.


Written by James Alami

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