It’s Hard to Forget Harlequins

Although distractions at my age can cause me to forget my original objective, I did push past the Black-Bellied Plovers and Dunlin to locate the Harlequin Ducks I had come to find.  I found these two males just short of the point, though they seemed too drab at first to be Harlequins.

With the sunlight coming directly from the left it’s hard to tell if the male on the right even has the distinctive rusty-red color. Not sure if that’s because of the light or because it is a young male just beginning to go into breeding plumage.

I seldom see Harlequins flying because like a lot of sea birds they dive when surprised.  Again, I was a little surprised how little red showed up. 

On the other hand, these three males who looked like they may have been courting the female shone brightly in the sun, though she seems remarkably unimpressed.  

Obviously, the red sides and red stripe down the head must play a part in attracting females, but it might also be a liability in surviving long enough to breed.  Luckily, I suspect it’s nearly invisible from above and non-existent from below the surface.

At the very least, their bright colors appeal to people — judging from the number of pictures found online and they are the reason I return several times during the winter to Ft. Flagler though it never crosses my mind to visit in the summer.

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