|Beautiful Harlequin Ducks at
Barnegat Light in New Jersey
Every winter, a group of beautiful Harlequin ducks migrate south from eastern Canada to Barnegat Light Inlet in
New Jersey where fishing boats are coming in from Atlantic Ocean through the inlet into the Barnegat Bay. (In
summer time, these Harlequin ducks are in eastern Canada such as Forillon National Park, Bonaventture Island
and Perce Rock in eastern end of Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec Province in eastern Canada.)
We went to Barnegat Lighthouse State Park at the northern tip of Long Beach Island in New Jersey to watch
these beautiful harlequin ducks at the Barnegat Light Inlet on Sunday, December 30, 2007 but it was a dark and
cloudy day which did not produce brilliant colors of beautiful harlequin ducks. Therefore, we went back again on
Wednesday, January 9, 2008, which was a sunny day, to see the beautiful colors of harlequin ducks.
These harlequin ducks were bobbing up and down on the waves created by the wind and the passing fishing
While swimming, harlequin ducks often have their heads down in the water probably searching for their prey.
Their diet consists of a wide variety of inter-tidal invertebrates and small fish gathered from rocks and the
bottom close to shore. Mollusks are a particularly important food group, especially snails, periwinkles, blue
mussels, shellfish, aquatic insects, crustaceans and small clams. Therefore, in the winter season, this group of
harlequin ducks are often inside the Barnegat Light inlet, hugging the rocks of the jetty.
At normal tide level, harlequin ducks often dive into water 10 to 12 feet deep to get their foods.
After re-surface from a dive, this harlequin duck got something in its bill.
From the base of the Barnegat Lighthouse, there is a 1,033 feet of concrete walkway with steel guard rail on
top of the south jetty along the Barnegat Light Inlet. Barnegat Lighthouse is the 3rd oldest and still operating
lighthouse in the country.
Another view of the concrete walkway with steel guard rail on top of the south jetty of the Barnegat Light Inlet.
End of concrete walkway with guard rail. The remaining portion of jetty consists of big rocks without guard rail.
We had to walk onto this tail end of the rocky jetty in order to see the harlequin ducks.
End of concrete walkway with guard rail viewed from the rocky jetty.
Tail end of the jetty without guard rail. Some visitors are on the beach to the right of jetty.
A harlequin duck is running on the water to take off.
More harlequin ducks are taking off from the water
Several harlequin ducks in flight. They seem to float with the tide current in the inlet from ocean side toward the
bay side while swimming, diving and catching foods. When they float near the bay side, then the whole group
take off to fly to the ocean end of the inlet and start over again to float with the tide current.
The harlequin ducks in the three pictures above are not very colorful because they were taken on the dark and
cloudy day of December 30, 2007. The following picture taken on the sunny day on January 9. 2007 shows
more colorful harlequin duck taking off from water.
One of several loons also fishing at the Barnegat Light Inlet.
Usually these harlequin ducks stay close to the rocks/jetty such that they are often in the long shadow of the jetty
in the late afternoon such that they do not appear as brilliantly colored as they could when they were under direct
The male harlequin duck has well decorated appearance of colorful pattern. The female harlequin duck is not as
colorful as the male harlequin duck. It is almost uniformly dark brown.
One of several sandpipers on the rock of the jetty. These sandpipers blend in so perfectly with the rocks that
you often don't see them until they move -- and they don't move until you're just a few yards away!
Location: Barnegat Lighthouse State Park is at the northern tip of Island Beach in New Jersey. It is near the
junction of 3th Street and Broadway in Barnegat Light, New Jersey. Phone: (609) 494-2016
Map: Click here to see Google Map showing satellite view of location of Barnegat Light Inlet
Direction to Barnegat Lighthouse:
1. Take Garden State Parkway South
2. Take Exit 63 to get into Highway 72 East for Manahawkin and Island Beach
3. Go over bridge into Island Beach/Ship Bottom
4. Turn left (north) into Long Beach Blvd north/N. Central Ave
5. It becomes Central Avenue in the town of Barnegat Light
6. Go north for about 8 miles all the way to end of Central Ave, then Turn left (west) into 4th Street west
7. Turn right into Broadway (north)
8. The Park entrance is on the right at the corner of Broadway and 3rd Street.
9. From the northeast corner of the parking lot, walk the trail toward the lighthouse.
The Park Office building next to the parking lot has public toilet facility
Four male harlequin ducks near the rock and the jetty; two sandpipers are on the rock.
On January 9, 2008, we arrived at the Barnegat Light inlet at about 3 PM at the time of low tide where many
rocks at the bottom of the inlet near the jetty are exposed. It is seen that many clams and mussels are growing
on such rocks that are normally under the water at higher tide levels. These clams and mussels are the main
diet of harlequin ducks. The abundance of clams and mussels on these rocks and jetty probably is the key
factor that attracts these harlequin ducks to come here every winter.
One of many mergansers fishing in Barnegat Light inlet and bay.
Many Brant (geese) in Barnegat Light inlet and bay.
Several seagulls in flight and five Brant on the water at Barnegat Light inlet.
The harlequin duck on the left side has direct sunshine and is very colorful. The other three harlequin ducks on
the right side are in the long shadow of the nearby jetty at about 4 PM. The sun goes down at about 4:30 PM in
the winter season. It is seen that direct sunshine makes a big difference in showing the beautiful colors of
A pair of mergansers at Barnegat Light inlet
Another loon flapping its wings in Barnegat Light inlet
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