Swift Water Fowl

Whenever I travel between Canyon and Lake I always stop at LeHardy Rapids on the Yellowstone River. The rapids are about 3 miles from the lake and were named for a map topographer in the late 1800s whose raft was destroyed in these swift waters.

I stop at LeHardy for two reasons
1) to catch a glimpse of the spawning Cutthroat Trout and, 2) the Harlequin Ducks.

Harlequin Ducks are truly beautiful birds. The striking males are slate gray with chestnut sides and some bold white spots and stripes on the head and body. Females are duller brown with some white markings on the head. During the breeding season these ducks inhabit swift mountain streams where they feed on aquatic insects. In winter, they migrate to rocky coasts where they feed on shellfish and other marine invertebrates.

At LeHardy Rapids they often sit on one of a few boulders out in the white water.

But it’s when they enter the rapids that they become truly remarkable birds. They swim in the biggest waves, seemingly without effort.

They dive underwater to catch their food and then pop up nearby like a cork.

If they get swept a bit too far downstream they just flap their wings and almost swim on the surface back to their starting point.

Then they pop out of the water back onto their rock to preen and rest before starting it all over again.


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