The distinctive Harlequin duck is a beautiful small sea duck with a small bill, short neck, and long tail. Males in breeding plumage are unmistakable with their dark blue color, reddish brown sides and crown, and striking white patterning on the face, neck, sides, and back.
Unlike most waterfowl that prefer quiet marshes, the Harlequin duck breeds on fast-flowing streams and winters along rocky coastlines in the crashing surf.
Harlequin ducks are well adapted to their harsh surroundings. They make their way against the current and easily climb up steep and slippery rocks, although many have been found with broken bones presumably from being dashed against rocks in the rough surf.
Like other diving ducks and dabble for prey. They forage underwater for crustaceans and mollusks, insects, and small fish found in riverine and marine habitats.
Harlequins trap a lot of air in their smooth, densely packed feathers. This air layer help provide insulation from the cold water. The air also makes them exceptionally buoyant. They are known to bounce like a cork after a dives.
The Harlequin duck is sometimes called a sea mouse for its very unducklike squeaks. You can listen to the Harlequin duck here.
You have probably heard a woodpecker at some point in your life, but have you been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the bird behind the noise?
The Pileated Woodpecker, one of the largest, most striking birds in North America, is a particularly beautiful sight. This black bird with bold white stripes down the neck and a flaming-red crest is nearly the size of a crow. Its bill is long and chisel-like, about the length of the head.
Any forest type can sustain Pileated Woodpeckers as long as there are trees large enough for roosting and nesting. These birds are typically found in mature and old-growth forests.
These powerful woodpeckers chip out characteristic oval or rectangular excavations in the trees where they forage for their prey, including wood-boring insects and insects that nest in trees like long-horned beetles and carpenter ants. These holes can be so large that they weaken smaller trees or even cause them to break in half.
The sound of the Pileated Woodpecker’s hammering carries long distances through the woods. They also drum to attract mates and to establish the boundaries of their territory.
These birds roost in hollow trees with multiple entrance holes. These roosting cavities are used later by many other birds and small animals.
Shooting for sport and food was formerly a significant source of mortality for Pileated Woodpeckers; fortunately, shooting these birds is now illegal.
Clear-cutting of old-growth and other forests currently has the most significant impact on Pileated Woodpecker habitat, but this species is fairly adaptable, which offsets some of the impact from habitat loss.
You probably have a loud, outgoing friend or two that can be trusted to make their presence known whenever they walk into a room. If you’re a resident of the intertidal community between Alaska, and Baja, California the Black Oystercatcher could be that friend. The Black Oystercatcher is a keystone species in this region and is believed to be a particularly sensitive indicator of the overall health of the rocky intertidal community. This large, long-lived shorebird measures approximately 15 inches in length with a long, thick, reddish-orange bill, a yellow eye encircled by an orange ring, and pink legs. These colors stick out against the bird’s black and dark brown plumage. In addition to its eye-catching appearance, black oystercatchers are gregarious and noisy birds, making several different types of noises to call to each other loudly and to scold other birds that may get too close to where it is feeding.
Oystercatchers inhabit marine shorelines, making their nests above the high tide line on offshore rocks, rocky shores, and sand or gravel beaches. If disturbed, they take flight with loud, ringing whistles easily heard above the sound of the waves. Despite its name, this shorebird seldom eats oysters. Instead, it feeds on a variety of intertidal invertebrates including mussels, limpets, chitons, crabs, barnacles, and other small creatures.
Black oystercatchers are highly vulnerable to natural and human disturbances. Major threats include predation of eggs and young by native and non-native predators; coastal development; human disturbance; shoreline contamination including oil spills; and global climate change. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the entire world population of black oystercatchers is estimated at about 11,000 individuals. More than 50 percent of that population lives in Alaska. If you have the chance to see a Black Oystercatcher next time you visit the beach in Oregon take a moment to appreciate this interesting bird, but keep your distance and help preserve this unique species.
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Associate Professor - Tourism and Business Development
College of Forest Ecosystems & Society
Oregon State University Extension - Oregon Sea Grant
Office: Coos Bay, Oregon
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