Local Waterfowl Open Thread

There’s a mandarin duck in Central Park that’s become something of a local celebrity. Nobody knows where it came from. I’d been hoping to see it before it molted. Today was a nice day, sunny if cold, so I decided to go for a stroll in the park. Twitter said that the duck had been seen at the pond in the southeast, so I took the train uptown a bit and ambled my way down there.

I wasn’t really expecting to see it, but I ended up just a few feet away:

So that was a nice surprise. Mostly, though, I’m just excited that I get to write a pretty-bird post of my own…

Yeah, you folks are right, that’s a wood duck. Looks like I missed the real thing by about fifty feet and twenty minutes. Still pretty. Open thread!

53 replies
  1. 1
    feebog says:

    We will have to start calling you Betty Bettty Betty Betty if you keep this up.

  2. 2
    AnotherBruce says:

    umm, That’s a wood duck.

  3. 3
    Tom Levenson says:

    A beautiful bird.

    I’ve been watching the swans in the “canals” section of Boston’s Esplanade over the last week. They seem to spend a lot of time with their heads below water. What you see are two curved white shapes — easy to mistake for moorings until their necks pop up.

  4. 4
    currants says:

    Wow, that looks a lot like … a wood duck. Are they related/am I not looking carefully enough? Yeah, that’s probably it.

  5. 5
    AnotherBruce says:

    But that’s a good siting, they are beautiful ducks.

  6. 6
    Redshift says:

    We have a group of ducks in the pond at our office park that my nature-loving group at work are pretty sure are Hooded Mergansers. I’ve seen them in bird books, but I’ve never seen one before in my life. The male is quite spectacular, but they’re extremely skittish, much more than the mallards, so they’re hard to get a good look at or to photograph. This is the best I’ve been able to manage.

    I keep thinking about getting a zoom lens for my phone; this may be the thing that pushes me over the line.

  7. 7
  8. 8
    AnotherBruce says:

    Wood ducks nest in trees, So somewhere in Central park, there’s a nest

  9. 9
    currants says:

    @currants: @AnotherBruce: Thanks! Yes, you’re right. I get them on my pond every March-Oct, and the males (like this one) are gorgeous when they’re in this plumage (without binoculars they look pretty much like the females from June-Sept).

  10. 10
    AnotherBruce says:

    Well Damn, I learn something new every day. (well, not every day) I’m a birder and I never heard of a mandarin duck.Time to google.

  11. 11
    J R in WV says:

    I once had a wood duck take off from the creek by the road onto our farm, early in the morning on my way to work this — thing — erupts almost vertically from the creek into the air. Like a rocket launch, almost.

    The picture Major^4 took is not much like a wood duck, at all.

  12. 12
    Inventor says:

    How much wood
    would a wood duck
    if a wood duck
    could duck

  13. 13
    HinTN says:

    @Redshift: I’ve got an adapter that connects my cell phone to my 10×50 binoculars. The results are spectacular.

  14. 14
    Mary G says:

    Is that the one? The Mandarin duck seems to have a mostly red beak with maybe a small spot of white on the tip, where yours has a beak with much more white, and the side paddles that look like cordovan leather aren’t showing. They are both beautiful and I wish I could see Central Park without having to fly across the country.

  15. 15
    Where's my hammer says:

    That is a wood duck, native to North America, especially the east and left coasts. They are related to the Mandarin duck (see wikipedia). The times article referenced shows a photo of the mandarin duck, which looks quite different.

    Still, wood ducks (and mandarin ducks) are gobsmacking. I see them out here on the left coast. Always a treat.

  16. 16
    Nicole says:

    The Central Park Zoo has (had?) Mandarin ducks. I assume all theirs are accounted for, but I figure it’s an escapee from someplace’s collection.

    Fun fact: during the summer, when male ducks lose their breeding plumage and look like females, it’s called being “in eclipse.”

  17. 17
    joel hanes says:

    That’s unquestionably a normal, everyday male North American wood-duck.
    Yes, they and the Mandarin duck are related.

  18. 18

    @Mary G: hmmm, actually y’all may be right.

  19. 19
    J R in WV says:

    @J R in WV:

    Wanted to add, how lucky for Major^4 to see this rare and exotic duck on his first trip to the central park pond where it is currently in residence, so far~!!~

    When we were in NYC last Nov. we talked about trekking up to the park to look for the duck, and decided that the odds of seeing it were so low that we would be better off visiting motionless monuments like the great museums, the Empire State Bldg, etc. So that’s what we did.

  20. 20
    AnotherBruce says:

    @Major Major Major Major: Sorry mate, but I looked at your link. The Mandarin is very different than the wood duck. To pick out one difference the wood duck has white on the throat, while the Mandarin has a tawny throat. Oh well this thread is getting too ducky.

  21. 21
    Sab says:

    @Major Major Major Major: It’s still an attractive duck. And you still have sighting the mandarin to look forward to.

  22. 22
    AnotherBruce says:

    @Inventor: I don’t know, but I think this thread might veer towards Monty Python territory.

  23. 23
    Redshift says:

    @HinTN: Oh, that sounds cool!

  24. 24
    Avi says:

    From a few months ago, here’s the Mandarin duck and wood duck in the same picture.

  25. 25
    JPL says:

    I’ve had to stop the car to let ducklings pass near my house, but none as beautiful as those.

  26. 26
    mokum says:

    @AnotherBruce: @AnotherBruce: Right, wood duck was also my first thought. See https://ebird.org/species/wooduc. Probably the same bird was observed at the Pond by Goran Stankovic, https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S52840888

  27. 27
    pat says:


    Wow that mandarin is really showy! Thanks for the photo.
    And I also thought, wait, isn’t that a wood duck? Can they be so similar?
    No they are not at all similar!

  28. 28
    MagdaInBlack says:

    It’s a beautiful duck and you had a nice walk. Win/win.
    Thank you for the pic 💗

  29. 29

    @AnotherBruce: Remarkable bird, the Mandarin duck, innit? Beautiful plumage.

  30. 30
    HeleninEire says:

    I just saw the movie “The Wife” and hoo boy, it sucked. I can’t believe a movie with Glenn Close sucked. It was boring, it was slow, it was predictable.

    Not one good character. The wife was an idiot. The husband was an idiot. The son was an idiot. The biographer was an idiot. Possible that the daughter wasn’t an idiot but she was only on screen for 3 minutes so I really couldn’t tell. But if I had to guess; idiot. They all deserved each other.

  31. 31
    Anne Laurie says:

    Wood ducks are pretty badarse, tho:

  32. 32
  33. 33
    MagdaInBlack says:

    @Major Major Major Major:
    See! Well worth it.

    Here..its snowing…😑

  34. 34
    Sab says:

    @Avi: What a bunch of ducks. NYC really does have more diversity than the Midwest.

  35. 35

    @MagdaInBlack: supposed to snow here in a few hours too.

  36. 36
    Yutsano says:

    @Avi: Lovingly shared with my fowl-loving friends on Twitter.

    I await their inevitable puns.

    @Major Major Major Major: We get another round Tuesday morning. I happen to be at my parents’ house which is down a long narrow gravel driveway. Work might be less than fun to get to.

  37. 37
    MagdaInBlack says:

    I recently read the book and wanted to kill “the Husband” at first meeting.

  38. 38

    I’m reading “Where the Crawdads Sing.” It’s a good read.

  39. 39
    mikefromDublin says:


  40. 40
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    some duck

  41. 41
    Litlebritdifrnt says:

    When I was in Jacksonville NC everyone was complaining about the Muscovy Ducks in the New River. So the City Council decided to spend a bunch of money to trap them and relocate them to a refuge somewhere. Everyone told them they were bloody stupid because the Ducks could fly and simply could go back. Turns out the Duck’s said “f*ck that* and in some sort of glorious camera ready protest they flew a certain distance and then WALKED down Highway 17 back to the New River. It was all over the front page of the Newspaper. Luckily the City Council saw sense and let them be after that.

  42. 42
    Kattails says:

    Lovely, saw a wood duck on a friend’s pond one morning while driving by. As Another Bruce said, they nest in the hollows of trees and I believe can be attracted via nesting boxes, hopefully there’s a mate around. Central Park is a gem.
    Haven’t been in NYC in ages. I feel extremely fortunate to have grown up in northern NJ. Stop laughing dammit. I lived next to a major wildlife center, the Great Swamp, but was easily able to access the cultural riches of the city via the old Erie-Lakawana train, complete with basket-woven seats. Our school field trips would be to the Met, the Natural History Museum and so on.
    Have you visited the Unicorn Tapestries in the Cloisters yet? (If it’s your thing…nah, go anyway They’re awesome.) Maybe wait until spring, Fort Tryon park will be lovely then and the herb gardens in the Cloisters will be active.

  43. 43
    Yarrow says:

    @HeleninEire: I saw “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Really enjoyed it. Rami Malek deserves every nomination he’s received this awards season. I don’t know if he deserves to win because I haven’t seen any of the other nominees in their roles. But wow was he good. Loved the whole film.

  44. 44
    Chris T. says:

    Kinda looks like a flesh-and-feather duck to me.

    What’s that? … Oh. Never mind!

  45. 45
    Anne Laurie says:


    Have you visited the Unicorn Tapestries in the Cloisters yet? (If it’s your thing…nah, go anyway They’re awesome.) Maybe wait until spring, Fort Tryon park will be lovely then and the herb gardens in the Cloisters will be active.

    Seconded — I grew up across the river from the Cloisters, and it is a lovely place to visit in *any* season. Especially for a fantasy / goth fan!

    Doesn’t get mentioned much, but IIRC a Rockefeller or two decided to ‘import’ bits of all their favorite medieval castles & cloisters to showcase the art they were buying up in bulk, and they paid really good architects to patch the whole thing together in a park that’s beautifully placed for vistas.

  46. 46

    @Kattails: @Anne Laurie: I have a grad school prof who works there, I should hit him up and arrange a visit!

  47. 47
    hilts says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    Major Major Major Major, thanks for the link to those great photos and for choosing one of the most memorable screen names.

    One day I hope you’ll write a post about the enduring greatness of Catch-22.

  48. 48
    Uncle Cosmo says:

    How much wood could a wood duck duck if a wood duck could duck wood? :^p

    For some unduckly reason this brings to mind Brother Antoninus’s poem “A Canticle to the Waterbirds,” whose first line (from memory, can’t find the text online) is one of the most glorious stretches of assonant alliteration in the genre:

    Clack your beaks, you cormorants and kittiwakes

  49. 49
    trollhattan says:

    Wood ducks speak Cantonese, which Mandarin ducks wood if they could.

  50. 50
    Aleta says:

    In case this hasn’t been mentioned, here’s the really cool twitter of Manhattan Bird Alert, which puts out beautiful pics of the Mandarin duck on any day. And many different owls seen in C Park and elsewhere, and other such calming bird images taken around the city of M. I’m not even a birder but get a good feeling from the immediacy and the account’s vibe.

    eta It leads with the Mandarin today, and then a hawk and a pilated wp and then some other duck and wp …. It often shows the Mandarin floating together w an assortment of ducks that it names….

  51. 51
    Aleta says:

    As for local bird mistakes, last night I thought I heard Canadian geese flying by in the dark. “That seems so early” I thought, “and fracck this fucking climate change!” Turned out to be the dog retching.

  52. 52
    HumboldtBlue says:

    Pffft, Central Park is a backwater.

    Humboldt County has its own mandarin duck and we didn’t have to stay in a Trump hotel to enjoy. Damn New Yorkers.

  53. 53
    EthylEster says:

    @AnotherBruce wrote:

    I never heard of a mandarin duck.Time to google.

    Recently one was in the news for 3 days. NYC maybe. When I saw the pic, at first I thought it was a wood duck but then…googled.

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