Mandarin Duck, Native to East Asia, Mysteriously Appears in Manhattan’s Central Park

Bird watchers were delighted to see a Mandarin duck, native to East Asia, unexpectedly appear in Central Park in October.

On the crescent-shaped pond in the southeast corner of Central Park, a spectacularly colorful duck floats on the surface with an air of majesty.

His head looks like a punk rocker’s multicolored mohawk. Beneath his beady black eyes, fringed orange feathers splay across his dark purple chest. His bill is colored a striking hot pink and sits under an emerald green forehead.

The male Mandarin duck, native to East Asia, should not be in the middle of Manhattan. And yet, against all odds, he is here. And he is dazzling.

On Oct. 10, the duck was first spotted near the Pond in Central Park and a video was shared on social media. The city’s avid birders were amazed: These ducks are commonly found in China and Japan — not the United States. Plus, ducks aren’t allowed to be kept as pets in the city.

David Barrett, the creator and manager of Manhattan Bird Alert, a Twitter account used to document bird sightings across the borough, originally believed there were three ways the duck may have reached Central Park.

First, he could have escaped from a local zoo. Second, he could have fled captivity somewhere nearby, such as New Jersey. Or third, a duck owner could have tired of having a feathered friend and dumped him in the park.

Shortly after he was spotted, the duck disappeared. “For almost two weeks we didn’t know what happened to it,” Mr. Barrett said. “We assumed it got eaten by a raptor.”

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SOURCE: NY Times, Julia Jacobs