Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2011-44a

Common name:

Harlequin Duck

Scientific name: Histrionicus histrionicus
Date: 9/30/11
Time: 555 pm
Length of time observed: 1 hr 5 min
Number: 1
Age: not sure
Sex: not sure
Location: First bridge on Antelope Island Causeway, about 1 mi west of entrance gate
County: Davis
Distance to bird: <30 m
Optical equipment: Leica 8x50 binoculars, Leica Televid 77mm spotting scope, Pentax Optio camera
Weather: Partly sunny, calm, with sun blocked by a large cloud for about 20-30 minutes while observing the bird.
Light Conditions: Rich warm lighting coming from the west, to the left of the observer and the bird, and behind the observer for most of the digiscoped shots.
Description:        Size of bird: About 2/3 size of Northern Shovelers that were also present and sometimes right next to it.
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Duck
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Dark brown
(Description:)            Bill Type: Duck-like
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Small sea duck, dark brown overall with darker brown on back; appeared to have at least paler, maybe even whitish belly, but never got a good look. Gray bill, lacking any knobs or protusions as found on scoters. Blackish (dark blueish?) tail. Head dark brown with white area in front of eye, extending from about halfway up forehead above the bill to below bill (looks like extending down throat a little bit), but dusky in area immediately in front of eye; also tiny patch of white above eye, and bold white auricular patches. Head shape somewhat suggestive of Barrow's Goldeneye, with peak in crown roughly above or just in front of eyes, then long slope backwards toward neck. Eye appeared dark brown. No wing patches were apparent. Legs looked gray in field but show yellowish in photos. I am assuming this bird is an adult female, but cannot be certain it is not a hatch-year bird. Obviously not an adult male.
(see photos B and C)
Song or call & method of delivery: None.
Behavior: Spent all of its time swimming and foraging (by diving) in the outflow at the first bridge, or perched on rock immediately adjacent to outlet. Not observed to fly. Threatened several eared grebes that got too close to it with bill-gaping.
Habitat: Seemed to focus its foraging efforts on the outflow from the south side of bridge; rested on rock adjacent to outflow.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Eliminated all dabbling ducks based on distinctive facial pattern, diving behavior and brown body. Eliminated Black Scoter based on facial pattern, lack of orange or yellow knob on bill, and lack of dark crown contrasting with pale cheek-all these features should be present on Black Scoter. Eliminated White-winged Scoter based on head shape, distinctive facial pattern, and lack of white wing patches and white near eyes that should be present on White-winged Scoter. Eliminated Surf Scoter on basis of relatively small size, lack of knob on bill (bill was smooth, dark grey), and lack of dark cap, and wrong arrangement of whitish patches on head, also lack of white on nape. Eliminated both goldeneye species by lack of white patterning on flanks and wrong facial patterns-neither goldeneye species has white cheek patches or white spots above the eye, and female Barrow's have orange bills.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
Have seen male and female Harlequin Ducks wintering off New Jersey. Have seen all three scoters and both goldeneye more than a few times.
References consulted: Looked in Sibley's Birds of Western North America, National Geographic Complete Birds of North America, and Madge and Burns's Waterfowl for info on how to sex and age HY birds versus adult females.
Description from: Notes taken at time of sighting
Observer: Craig R. Fosdick
Observer's address: PO Box 443, Logan, UT, 84323-0443
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Richard Young was present at the time but was not watching and did not know where it was; not sure who originally found the bird earlier in the week-Paul Higgins?
Date prepared: 9/30/11
Additional material: Photos
Additional_Comments: Photo(s) sent to Milt Moody may be used for documentation of record, including publication, but must be credited to Craig R. Fosdick and may not be used for commercial purposes without my express written consent.