Harlequin Duck Survey 2016


Spring brings the Harlequin Ducks back to McDonald Creek. The males, in their bright plumage, mate with the females then head back to the ocean. The females are left to raise their young before rejoining the males.

During this brief window, we head out to survey the ducks to see how many ducks are on the creeks, if they’re paired up, ID leg bands, etc. After we see how many are around and look at the level of the water, we band the unbanded ducks. This year, there is a multi-state, multi-national, and multi-agency effort underway to implant geolocators on a handful of ducks to understand how they travel.

May 17th was a perfect spring day full of sunshine and Harlequin Ducks. Lisa and I started at Avalanche Creek and worked our way, stumbling through undergrowth to see ducks. It took us a bit of time, but we finally found our first pair, then a second joined them. Throughout the day we saw even more pairs bringing our total to 6 pairs or 12 ducks.

One pair, in particular, didn’t mind us getting closer to them even though we were making noise. This led to some nice photos and the realization that they didn’t have any bands. Eventually, we came to a pair that had a geolocator implanted a week ago and they looked great and healthy.

It’s always fantastic to head out to McDonald Creek this time of year and watch these charismatic ducks, the wildflowers and the beautiful whitewater in Glacier National Park.

McDonald Creek

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