On Wednesday afternoon, New York birder and birding photographer Gus Keri spotted a rare duck for these parts at the Central Park Pond. The male Mandarin duck is a striking bird, and while there are isolated populations in the United States (in California and North Carolina) they are most often found in East Asia. In fact, if you see one in the U.S., it's likely either escaped from captivity, or is from one of the few feral populations in the aforementioned states (the result of ducks escaping captivity and reproducing in the wild). So naturally, the one in Central Park caught the eye of a few passerby yesterday, and Keri captured it all on video:
David Barrett, who runs the Manhattan Bird Alert Twitter account and posted Keri's video, further explained that the duck is not of wild origin, telling Gothamist "it is an East Asian species that does not naturally migrate anywhere near here." He also noted the band on the leg, "further indicating that it came from some sort of captivity, either a zoo or a private collection... or a person put it there, as owners of exotic pets sometimes do in the park."
Paul Sweet, Collection Manager in the Department of Ornithology at the American Museum of Natural History, also confirmed with us that the bird is not from around here—"This is not native to North America. It’s native range is in East Asia. It has probably escaped from a private collection or zoo. You can see from the band on its right leg that it is a captive bird."
The most likely scenario would be that the Central Park Zoo's male Mandarin duck escaped, given the Zoo is just blocks from where this guy was spotted. However, Max Pulsinelli (Executive Director of Communications for WCS, including Central Park Zoo) told us this morning that it wasn't theirs. "We are aware of this duck," Pulsinelli told us. "We observed the band on it’s leg which is used for identification and can confirm that it is not from the Zoo."
We've reached out to the Parks Department and they've alerted the rangers; we'll update here if we find out any more information. For now, you may want to swing by the Central Park Pond for a rare duck sighting.
Update: The Parks Dept.'s Crystal Howard told Gothamist just after 5 p.m. on Thursday, "Duck watch is on! Our Urban Park Rangers attempted today to find and rescue the non-native Mandarin duck identified to be in Central Park—to no avail, yet." She also asks that, "If parkgoers see a tame, abandoned pet, alert an Urban Park Ranger or bring the animal to Animal Care & Control."
However, if the animal appears injured, "the best thing to do is leave the animal where it is and locate an Urban Park Ranger in the park. Tell the ranger what kind of animal it is (e.g. bird, dog, raccoon), the size and color of the animal, and its observed condition (is it dead, acting disoriented, bleeding, or just walking around?). The more information you can provide, the better."