Saturday, May 17, 2014

Harlequin Duck near Banks

Harlequin Ducks are a great find anywhere, anytime in Idaho. There are a few wild rivers in the northern part of the state where they occur semi-regularly, but only in small numbers (usually no more than 1 breeding pair at a time) and it’s always a big attraction when they’re found. These birds typically breed in fast moving inland streams, and winter on rocky coastal areas. Though most of their breeding range is in Canada, they do have a few strongholds in the lower 48, most notably in Yellowstone National Park, which is where I would bet that most birds seen in Idaho are heading to or from.

We were lucky enough to happen upon a pair last year on Mores Creek along Highway 21 between Boise and Idaho City, with the male in beautiful breeding plumage. This spring, somebody mentioned on the Facebook Idaho Birding group that they had seen one on the Payette River along the Banks-Lowman Road near Banks. It immediately got the attention of birders in the Treasure Valley, dozens of whom rushed up to try to re-find it over the next month or so. We headed up once on March 10th with no luck, and headed back on March 15th where we quickly found it about 0.4 miles from Banks.

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Harlequin Duck near Banks, Boise County. March 15, 2014.

This one appears to be a male in the early stages of molting into its breeding plumage. We enjoyed watching it splash around in the rapids, and it was fascinating to watch how comfortable it was navigating the quick moving water and slick rocks. We captured some video while we were there.

Harlequin Duck near Banks, Boise County. March 15, 2014.

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