Harlequin Ducks at Barnegat Lighthouse, New Jersey

Harlequin Duck


Harlequin Ducks are a feast for the eyes with all those stripes, spots, and exotic coloring going on! If you really want to see them though, it may require a trip in winter  to Barnegat Lighthouse, New Jersey, and a treacherous walk along the giant rocks that make up the almost mile-long jetty. This year and last, however, the ducks were still hanging out there in late March and early April, so even though there was a blustery cold wind off the ocean, at least there was no ice to contend with on the rocks!

Harlequin Duck

The male Harlequins are slate-gray with stark white spots and bright rust on the top of the head and flanks. The females are much drabber brown with a cheek spot or two. These are diving ducks, and will eat fish and invertebrates such as crabs. They are very much at home along the rocky coasts.

Harlequin Duck

Handsome pair!

Harlequin Duck

Getting aggressive! Cornell’s website mentions that during encounters like this, Harlequin Ducks make an uncharacteristic squeaky vocalization, earning it the nickname “Sea Mouse!” Click here to listen to their squeaks.

Harlequin Duck

For more photos and information on winter birding at Barnegat Lighthouse, see Howard Eskin’s post about his experience and lesson learned in birding the jetty alone, and also Corey Husic’s wonderful post on Nemesis Bird which includes photos of other birds you may encounter.

Lauren Shaffer

Lauren Shaffer wrote 146 posts

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  • Dick Hess

    Great pictures Lauren. Did you take these from your little boat?

    • Lauren Shaffer

      No, the sea was too rough for that! I took them from the jetty rocks, sitting for some of the photos. The ducks came fairly close!

  • brighamstephen

    Great birds and pictures. Saw them this winter at Ocean City jetty in Maryland. Thanks for sharing.

  • Jason

    I’m planning on heading down to barnegat soon in hopes of seeing the harlequin duck. Does anyone know if the warm weather we’ve been having this year has had any affect on their migration? Are the harlequin ducks still there at barnegat now?

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