The Mandarin Duck Was Spotted On The Brooklyn Side Of The East River
January 29, 2019
By Jen Carlson
Listen, there is only one Mandarin Patinkin. Wild, on the loose, making his own damn plans, flying by the seat of his feathers, not tied down to any pond, or any group of duck friends. A wandering soul. Seeking out things we’ll never fully understand. The Freewheelin’ Mandarin Patinkin. But… what if there are others like him in NYC? Not zoo ducks, but independent Mandarins.
There could be. Or it could be that Mandarin Patinkin just likes to explore. On Monday, he, or another Mandarin duck, was spotted on the East River. The sighting took place around 2:30 p.m. at WNYC Transmitter Park.
David Barrett, who runs the Manhattan Bird Alert Twitter account, told me Monday night that, “Though this very likely is the Mandarin Duck, we don’t know for certain, as the observer today did not take any [photos] with the Mandarin Duck’s leg-ties showing.” He added that while he has visited the Hudson before (as recently as last week) and New Jersey, “the Mandarin Duck has no documented history of visiting the East River.”
“Given the huge publicity the Mandarin Duck has generated, we should keep in mind that such ducks can be purchased and released,” Barrett noted. Has Mandarin Mania led to an uptick of Mandarin duck sales? Is Zardulu releasing Mandarin ducks into the wild? Or is Mandarin Patinkin just out there livin’ life?
Barrett believes Mandarin Patinkin likely has a wandering itch to scratch right now. “The Central Park Pond is mostly ice now,” Barrett says. “Though it’s unlikely that the situation worsens, given the springs that keep the Pond near Gapstow Bridge ice-free, the ducks and geese are crowded together more, and they have much less swimmable water.” So Patinkin may want some space. Or he may want a mate.
“We are approaching breeding season,” Barrett says, “and the Mandarin Duck may be trying to better his chances of finding a mate… you can think of it as increasing his Tinder radius from 100 yards to 2 miles.” He doesn’t believe he’ll find one, but noted that “female Mandarins and female Wood Ducks look very much alike… Who knows what he might try?”
Could NYC end up with its own hybrid Mandarin? Is it even possible? Paul Sweet, from the American Museum of Natural History’s Department of Ornithology, told Gothamist, “Mandarin has hybridized with Wood Duck. I would think this highly unlikely in Central Park since Wood Ducks don’t breed there for lack of suitable habitat. They need tree holes or nest boxes.” But maybe somewhere in Brooklyn? Anything is possible, but good luck finding an affordable Nest Box near the river in north Brooklyn.
Sweet also sent along this article, which provides evidence that hybrid ducks of a Wood Duck x Mandarin Duck parentage have existed. This will be our Royal Baby, NYC.
UPDATE: On Wednesday the duck was still in the East River, and the leg band was spotted, meaning this is Mandarin Patinkin.