[CT Birds] Harlequin Duck's age

mntncougar at aol.com mntncougar at aol.com
Thu Jan 14 22:07:51 EST 2010

Today I took a trip to Beavertail at Jamestown, RI to see the  flocks of 
Harlequins there.   The sky was mostly cloudy, but the water  was almost flat 
calm, so I managed to get very good looks at them.  What I  saw there 
confirmed my feeling that the Farmington bird is a first year  male.  The pics I 
managed to get of him are very bad, but he clearly does  not have the 
colorful markings of the adult males, even though the black and  white pattern is 
correct.  I think that fits well with the usual scenario  for birds found out 
of their normal habitat or region in Ct., for example, the  Pacific Loon.
I have seen the birds in RI before, but always in a fairly  rough surf, and 
there was no surf at all today.  Perhaps it was more  obvious because of 
the flat water, but Harlequins have some interesting  traits.  The flocks, and 
the males in particular, tend to huddle together  in very tight groups, 
often touching each other.
When they dive to feed, it appears that 1 bird starts and all  the rest 
instantly follow.  One second there are 15 birds, literally the  next second, 
none.  Just before they dive it seems they gather even more  tightly 
together.  Also, they are the fastest swimming birds (above water)  I have ever 
seen.  When they decide to go they leave a wake! (Visible  in some of the 
pictures). I assume that strength comes from swimming in the  torrents of their 
summer habitat and the surf in winter.
Link to pics below:
Don Morgan

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