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Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus)


Status:  In 2001 the Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus) was downlisted from Endangered to Special Concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).  While the western Canadian population of the Harlequin Duck persists with a larger population size, concern was raised for the eastern population in the 1980s, based around a reduced population size (Goudie 1990).  Subsequent study of the species’ movement patterns and population distribution determined that the numbers were higher and the species more widely distributed than originally believed.  Due to their wide distribution during the breeding season, it has been determined that population monitoring is more effective at moulting and wintering locations where Harlequin Ducks are known to regularly and consistently congregate.  Research efforts over the past 15 years have determined two primary wintering areas for the eastern Canadian breeding population of the Harlequin Duck – the southwest coast of Greenland to be hereby referred to as the Greenland wintering population, and the eastern coast of North America ranging from Maryland, USA to southern Newfoundland to be hereby referred to as the eastern North American wintering population.  

Reason for Status: Despite the downlisting in 2001 to Special Concern, the population of the eastern North American wintering population is still low relative to other waterfowl species.  Considering the gregarious nature of the species, these relatively low population numbers warrant the recognition of a species of Special Concern. 

Further information:  The most comprehensive summary to date on the status of the Harlequin Duck is found in the 2001 COSEWIC status report (Thomas and Robert 2001).  For the purposes of this Management Plan status information will only be referenced in a limited manner within this document to allow more concentration on management issues.  For more comprehensive status information, refer to Thomas and Robert (2001).