Government of New Brunswick


  • Mainly lives here only during the winter months.


The harlequin duck is a small migratory bird with distinctive colours and patterns. The adult male is readily identified by its vivid blue-grey plumage, chestnut flank, and pronounced white patches on its head, neck and breast. The female is dusky brown with white patches behind, below, and in front of each eye. The harlequin duck does not develop adult plumage until it is two years old.




It forages in turbulent waters. In the winter, it can be found along the coast on exposed rocky shores and offshore ledges, where molluscs and crustaceans are its main food. During breeding season, which is spring-summer, it migrates to northern, fast-flowing rivers. The harlequin builds its nest along the river shore where it feeds mainly on the larvae of aquatic insects. The nesting season is May and June. The female lays four to eight eggs. Harlequin ducks return to the same wintering area each year. Protecting these sites is an important step in conserving the species.




With a few exceptions, this species is found in New Brunswick only during the winter. There are two main wintering sites, both of which are in the Bay of Fundy. Small groups of wintering harlequins can be found in other areas along the Fundy coast. There are also a few reports of harlequin ducks breeding on rivers in northern New Brunswick. The bulk of the breeding population is found further north, on rivers in Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador. The harlequin duck occurs on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The eastern population breeds in northeastern Canada and Greenland. It winters as far south as northeastern United States.