A colorful Mandarin Duck has appeared in New York’s Central Park, and amateur wildlife photographers are going insane.
If we’re totally honest, there are very few colorful birds here in North America. Sure, the occasional cardinal or blue jay will provide a shot of vibrancy, but over the winter it’s just grey and brown birds, if we see any birds at all.
Maybe that explains why New York is going absolutely insane for even a single example of colorful plumage. A mandarin duck, rare in this part of the world but relatively common in Asia, is a very vibrant example of waterfowl that people are desperate to see in the grey doldrums of the winter months.
To be fair to the duck, he’s actually quite a beautiful specimen. Bright blues, reds, and oranges appear up and down the bird’s feathers, with a starburst design on the breast along with the most regal of upturned flaps from the wings while at rest.
However, the mandarin duck’s sudden appearance last month is a bit of a mystery as they’re not native to the area. Normally the mandarin’s range goes up and down the far eastern side of the Asian continent, with a few found in parts of Europe thanks to human introduction.
Paul Sweet believes that’s what happened in New York as well. Sweet is an ornithologist who heads up an enormous collection of bird specimens at the American Museum of Natural History, and he believes that the mandarin duck currently enthralling most of the city’s photographers is an escaped specimen brought in to populate someone’s private estate.
And while most of the nature photographers and journalists are enthralled by the duck’s impressive coloration, Sweet says that both himself and other bird watchers aren’t all that impressed.
“A lot of non-birders tend to see gaudy birds as more beautiful,” Sweet said. “But to me, it’s no more beautiful than, say, a sparrow.”
Regardless of whether or not this duck is an escapee or a migrating bird that got hopelessly lost somewhere over the Pacific, he’s certainly got New York in his grip.