Here’s an interesting article about a harlequin duck study in Glacier Park . . .
Warren Hansen, a graduate of Polson High School, has channeled his lifelong love of ducks and the outdoors into a long-term examination of harlequin ducks in Glacier National Park’s McDonald Creek watershed — a renowned hot spot for harlequin breeding activity.
With their signature plumage rivaled only by the beauty of their migratory mountain homes, harlequin ducks have captured the hearts of countless bird watchers and casual observers. The rare birds are sea ducks that typically spend their winters residing in coastal surf zones before migrating inland to nest alongside whitewater mountain streams.
“They’re the only bird to have an east-west migration,” he said.
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The latest from the ongoing harlequin duck study in Glacier Park . . .
A male harlequin duck, known to be at least 17 years-old, was recently identified in Glacier National Park by University of Montana researchers and Glacier National Park scientists. The banded duck is believed to be the third oldest on record. The oldest known banded harlequin duck has a recorded age of 18 years and 10 months.
“Prior to these findings, harlequin ducks were reported to live up to only 10 years of age, which makes this finding a positive indicator of the health and longevity of harlequin breeding populations in Glacier National Park,” said Lisa Bate, Glacier National Park biological science technician. “Research indicates harlequin ducks mate for life unless something happens to one member of the pair. This old male has returned the last three years with the same female.”
In 2011, a study of harlequin ducks on Upper McDonald Creek was initiated by Glacier National Park in cooperation with researchers from the University of Montana. Researchers use radio-telemetry and banding to learn more about the location of harlequin nests and factors affecting offspring survival. Upper McDonald Creek is considered an important breeding stream for harlequin ducks, comprising 25% of known broods produced in Montana. The area also has the highest density of breeding harlequins in the lower 48 states. Glacier National Park has approximately 40 pairs of harlequins in the park.
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Glacier National Park just announced a two-year project to study harlequin ducks, which are, it turns out, pretty interesting critters. Here’s the core of the press release . . .
Glacier National Park scientists in cooperation with researchers from the University of Montana, will initiate a two-year study of harlequin ducks on Upper McDonald Creek in late April…
Harlequin ducks, a species of concern in Montana, occupy a unique niche among waterfowl. These small sea ducks spend most of their lives feeding in the turbulent surf along the North American coast. Each April, the ducks migrate inland to breed and raise their young along fast-moving, freshwater streams. They are specially adapted to feed on stream bottoms in raging water, a place inaccessible to other wildlife species. Male harlequin ducks are very striking, being slate blue, with bold white, black, and chestnut markings.
Continue to full press release . . .