Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2011-44

Common name:

Harlequin Duck

Scientific name: Histrionicus histrionicus
Date: 09-28-2011
Time: 1:00
Length of time observed: 20 minutes, then 10 minutes more at 2:30
Number: 1
Age: ?
Sex: female or immature?
Location: Antelope Island Causeway.Great Salt Lake
County: Davis
Latilong: ?
Elevation: 4,200
Distance to bird: 20 yards
Optical equipment: 10 X 50 Binoculars, 20X Spotting Scope, Cannon SX20 Camera
Weather: sunny,80 degrees, calm winds
Light Conditions: full sun, out in the open
Description:        Size of bird: about a foot long
(Description:)       Basic Shape: duck like
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: dark brownish with white spots in the face
(Description:)            Bill Type: long and flat (duck like)
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
The solid dark brown body with the white spots on the face were very unique and brought my immediate attention.
(see photo and video)
Song or call & method of delivery: no sounds made.
Behavior: First it was just on the lake about 100 yards north of the causeway, but then it took flight and flew to the bridge, where it fed in the outflow channel coming from under the bridge 20 yards from the road. After a few minutes it came a shore and started preening on a rock on the bank
Habitat: Open water of the great salt lake, near shore.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
At first when I saw the bird, I thought it was a Surf Scoter, which had been reported from the causeway the day before. But after getting a good look at the bird, and noticing the white spots on the face, and consulting 'Sibley guide to western birds', I concluded it wasn't a scoter, based mostly on bill shape, and the fact that it had 2 distinct spots on the face, one on the cheek, and one in front of the eye. Also I ruled out a Bufflehead hen based on the fact that their were 2 spots, as mentioned above, not just one, also the bird was too large
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I have seen a many of these birds, both male and female, on the Puget Sound of Washington State, specifically great numbers in the strait of Juan De Fuca, just a few yards off shore in large rafts. This was in 2001,and 2003.
References consulted: Sibley Guide to birds of Western North America: D.A. Sibley
Description from: From memory
Observer: Bryant Olsen
Observer's address: 688 East 700 South SLC,UT 84102
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Paul Higgins, Robert Mortensen, Edson Leite, as reported on birdtalk
Date prepared: 09-29-11
Additional material: Photo and a Video