Birds of America
By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.
THE HARLEQUIN DUCK.
FULIGULA HISTRIONICA, Linn.
PLATE CCCCIX.--MALE, FEMALE, AND YOUNG.
I have the pleasure of presenting you with three figures of the Harlequin
Duck, one a male in all the perfection of its spring plumage, the bird having
attained complete maturity, another male two years old, and an adult female shot
in the pairing season. No figures of the adult male or of the female have, I
believe, hitherto been published.
To the south of the Bay of Boston the "Lord and Lady Duck" is rarely seen
on our coast; but from that neighbourhood it becomes more plentiful as you
proceed eastward; and, on reaching Maine and the entrance of the Bay of Fundy,
you may see it at any period of the year among the rocky islands there. It
breeds on the Seal, White Head, and Grand Manan Islands, and along the coast of
Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, Newfoundland, and Labrador. Many, however, proceed
much farther north, for specimens were obtained by Captain JAMES CLARK Ross in
the highest latitudes visited by him. It is extremely attached to certain
localities, from which it rarely wanders unless greatly molested, and it thus
remains about the islands, or the parts of the coast on which it breeds, unless
it be forced off by very severe weather in winter. Few persons shoot it for its
flesh; not that it is inferior as food to other deep-diving Ducks, but because
it is comparatively small, and difficult to be obtained. Not only is it at all
seasons remarkably shy and vigilant, but even if approached when on rocks, it
plunges into the water the moment its keen eye catches a glance of you, dives
with all the agility of the Black Guillemot, and seldom rises within shot. If
you shoot at it when passing on wing, even should it be beyond reach, it plunges
into the water the moment it perceives the flash,--a habit which is also
occasionally observed in the Black Guillemot. It being usually found in flocks
of one or two families, or of from twelve to fifteen individuals, some one
always acts as a watchful sentinel, whose single note of alarm is sufficient to
induce the whole to move off without hesitation. Notwithstanding all this
vigilance, however, my party procured a good number of them at different times,
by lying in wait for them under cover of some rocks, in the neighbourhood of
which they were known to alight at certain hours of the day, to bask in the sun
and dress their plumage. On these occasions a shot seldom failed to kill
several, for they fly compactly and alight close together.
On the 31st of May, 1833, I found them breeding on White Head Island, and
other much smaller places of a similar nature, in the same part of the Bay of
Fundy. There they place their nests under the bushes or amid the grass, at the
distance of twenty or thirty yards from the water. Farther north, in
Newfoundland and Labrador, for example, they remove from the sea, and betake
themselves to small lakes a mile or so in the interior, on the margins of which
they form their nests beneath the bushes next to the water.
The nest is composed of dry plants of various kinds, arranged in a circular
manner to the height of two or three inches, and lined with finer grasses. The
eggs are five or six, rarely more, measure two inches and one-sixteenth by one
inch and four and a half eighths, and are of a plain greenish-yellow colour.
These measurements differ a little from those of an egg sent to me by my friend
Mr. HEWITSON of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, and which had been found in Ireland by Mr.
ATKINSON. After the eggs are laid, the female plucks the down from the lower
parts of her body, and places it beneath and around them, in the same manner as
the Eider Duck and other species of this tribe. The male leaves her to perform
the arduous but, no doubt to her, pleasant task of hatching and rearing the
brood, and, joining his idle companions, returns to the sea-shore, where he
moults in July and August. The little ones leave the nest a few hours after
they burst the shell, and follow their mother to the water, where she leads them
about with the greatest care and anxiety. When about a week old she walks with
them to the sea, where they continue, in the same manner as the Eiders. When
discovered in one of these small inland lakes, the mother emits a lisping note
of admonition, on which she and the young dive at once, and the latter make for
the shores, where they conceal themselves, while the former rises at a good
distance, and immediately taking to wing, leaves the place for awhile. On
searching along the shores for the young, we observed that, on being approached,
they ran to the water and dived towards the opposite side, continuing their
endeavours thus to escape, until so fatigued that we caught four out of six.
When at sea, they are as difficult to be caught as the young Eiders.
The flight of the Harlequin Duck is rapid and generally straight. At sea
it flies at a small height, but when flying over the land, or even when
approaching it, should there be any suspicion of danger, it rises to a
considerable height. Its food consists of shrimps, small fishes, roe, aquatic
insects, and mollusca, which it procures by diving. The flesh is dark, and
generally tastes of fish, but that of the female is good during the period of
her sojourn on the fresh-water ponds.
The male takes three years to acquire his full plumage, although many
individuals breed in the second year. The female is perfect in the second
spring. Dr. RICHARDSON, in the Fauna Boreali-Americana, describes a male killed
on the eastern declivity of the Rocky Mountains, whence it appears that at times
it goes far inland; and it is very probable that its habits differ greatly in
HARLEQUIN DUCK, Anas histrionica, Wils. Amer. Orn., vol. viii. p. 139.
FULIGULA HISTRIONICA, Bonap. Syn., p. 394.
CLANGULA HISTRIONICA, Harlequin Duck, Swains. and Rich. F. Bor. Amer.,vol. ii. p. 459.
HARLEQUIN DUCK, Fuligula histrionica, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. iii. p. 612;vol. v. p. 617.
Adult Male in summer.
Bill much shorter than the head, comparatively narrow, deeper than broad at
the base, slightly depressed towards the end, which is rounded. Upper mandible
with the dorsal line straight and sloping to the middle, then nearly straight,
towards the tip decurved, the ridge broad and flat at the base, convex towards
the end, the sides convex, the edges soft, with about thirty-five oblique
internal lamellae, the unguis large and elliptical. Nostrils sub-basal,
elliptical, very large, pervious, nearer the ridge than the edge. Lower
mandible flat, with the angle long, rather narrow, rounded, the dorsal line
slightly convex, the edges with about forty lamellae, the unguis elliptical.
Head rather large, compressed. Eyes of moderate size. Neck of ordinary
length, thick. Body large, depressed. Wings rather small. Feet very short,
placed rather far behind; tarsus very short, compressed, having anteriorly in
its whole length a series of small scutella, and above the outer toe a few broad
scales, the rest covered with reticular angular scales. Hind toe very small,
with a free membrane beneath; anterior toes longer than the tarsus, connected by
reticulated membranes, having a sinus on their free margins, the inner with a
narrow lobed marginal membrane, the outer with a thickened edge, the third and
fourth about equal and longest, all covered above with narrow scutella. Claws
small, arched, obtuse, that of first toe very small, of third largest, and with
an inner thin edge.
Plumage dense, soft, blended. Feathers on the fore part of the head very
small and rounded, on the upper part of the head slightly elongated, on the neck
narrow, on the other parts broad and rounded. Wings rather short, narrow,
pointed; primary quills curved, strong, tapering, and pointed, the first and
second about equal, and longest, the rest rapidly graduated; secondary short,
broad and rounded. Tail very short, cuneate, of sixteen strong tapering
Bill light yellowish-olive, the tips of the unguis lighter. Iris
reddish-brown. Feet light blue, the webs greyish-black, the claws whitish. A
broad band from the base of the bill to the occiput bluish-black, margined
behind with light yellowish-red, before with white, that colour forming a broad
triangular spot on the cheek anterior to the eye. Sides of the head, and neck
all round, purplish-blue; a spot of white behind the ear, a curved line on the
side of the neck, a complete ring of white below the middle of the neck, with a
curved band of the same colour anterior to the wing. All these white markings
broadly edged with deep black. The fore part of the back light purplish-blue,
the hind part gradually deepening in tint, so as to become almost black, of
which colour is the rump all round. Scapulars chiefly white; wing-coverts
purplish-blue, as are the alula and primary coverts, the quills dark
greyish-brown, the tail greyish-black, a small white spot near the flexure of
the wing; a band of white across the wing, formed by the tips of the
secondaries, of which the inner have their outer webs principally of the same
colour. Fore part of the breast purplish-blue, hind part and abdomen
greyish-brown, sides light red; a lateral spot of white near the root of the
Length to end of tail 17 1/4 inches, to end of wings 14 1/2, to end of
claws 16 1/2; extent of wings 26 1/2; wing from flexure 7 3/4; tail 3 1/2; bill
along the back 1 1/12, along the edge of lower mandible 1 1/2; tarsus 1 4/12;
middle toe 2, its claw 4/12. Weight 1 1/2 lbs.
Male in the second year.
The young male, after the first moult, is greyish-brown on the back and
wings, light brownish-grey beneath. The head and neck are of a dull
leaden-blue, the upper part of the head darker. The white spot before the eye
is mottled with grey, the line extending over the eye obscure, and the edging of
the occiput faint reddish-brown. The two white marks exist on the sides of the
neck, but are merely edged with darker blue; there are slight indications of the
white collar, and the band before the wing is marked, but much smaller than in
the adult. The quills are dark brown, but the secondaries are not tipped with
white, of which there are but slight indications on the scapulars. The upper
tail-coverts are blackish, the tail bluish-grey, lighter at the end. The bill
is dusky, the feet of a leaden tint.
Male in the third year.
After the second moult, the male has greatly improved in colouring,
although the tints are not nearly so pure as in the old bird. The hind part of
the back is still brown, as are the wing-coverts; the sides are dark
brownish-grey, with undulated yellowish-red bars. The white collar is not yet
complete, but all the white markings on the neck are edged with black; the fore
part of the breast is dull grey, the middle yellowish-grey, spotted with
bluish-grey. The white bar on the wing is still wanting; the rump is glossy
bluish-black, the tail nearly of the same tint.
The principal colour of the female is greyish-brown, deeper on the head and
rump, lighter on the fore neck, and mottled with greyish-white on the breast.
The quills are dark brown, edged with lighter, the tail blackish-grey. There is
a large whitish spot mottled with grey before the eye, and another of a purer
white behind the ear. Bill and feet dull bluish-grey. Iris brown.
Length to end of tail 16 inches, to end of wings 13 1/2, to end of claws
15 1/2; extent of wings 24 1/4; wing from flexure 8 1/4; tail 3 1/2; bill along
the back 1 10/12, along the edge of lower mandible 1 1/2; tarsus 1 1/4; middle
toe 2, its claw 4/12. Weight 1 1/4 lbs.
Male from Dr. T. M. BREWER. Width of mouth 9 twelfths, its roof deeply
concave as in most other Ducks; the posterior aperture of the nares
oblongo-linear, 8 twelfths in length, margined with very slender acute papillae;
the lamellae on each side of the upper mandible about 35; those on the edge of
the lower mandible about 60; the tongue 1 inch 4 twelfths long, fleshy, broad,
thick at the base, becoming thin toward the end, with thin, fringed margins, and
a semicircular tip. OEsophagus 7 inches 2 twelfths long, of the uniform width
of 8 twelfths on the neck, the proventriculus 9 twelfths in breadth. Stomach a
strong muscular gizzard, 1 1/2 inches long, 1 inch 7 twelfths broad; the lateral
muscles very large, the tendons covering almost its whole surface; the
epithelium very thick, dense, with two opposite elliptical flat grinding
surfaces. The proventricular glands form a belt 1 1/2 inches in breadth. The
liver is very large, its lobes very unequal, the right 2 inches 8 twelfths long,
the left 1 inch 8 twelfths. Intestine 58 1/2 inches long, its average width 5
The trachea, which is 6 1/2 inches in length, has at first a breadth of
only 3 twelfths, but at the distance of three-quarters of an inch enlarges to
4 1/2 twelfths, and so continues for 2 inches; it then contracts to 2 1/2
twelfths, and again at the lower part enlarges to 5 1/4, twelfths, and
terminates in a large transverse bony dilatation or tympanum, of which the
length is 7 1/2 twelfths, the breadth 1 inch 2 twelfths; it projects as usual to
the left side, where it is of a rounded form. The rings of the trachea are 124,
broad, firm, and well ossified. The bronchi are of moderate width, of about 25
half rings. The lateral muscles are strong, the sterno-tracheal of considerable
size, coming off at the commencement of the tympanum, and there are no inferior
In a female, the intestine is 57 inches long; its width in the duodenal
part 3 twelfths; the coeca 4 inches long, 3 twelfths in breadth at the widest
part, at the base 1 twelfth, and toward the end 2 twelfths; their distance from
the extremity 3 inches.