Male Mandarin ducks are considered some of the most beautiful animals in the world, thanks to their head full of colorful feathers. Native to East Asia, where they are still found in abundance, there is also a significant population in Britain. This population was cultivated after domesticated Mandarins, imported from China in the 20th century, escaped and created a feral colony. But still, seeing a Mandarin duck in North America is a rare treat; and when it happens, it draws excited attention.
Perhaps one of the most “famous” male Mandarin ducks in North America can be found in British Columbia, Canada. Affectionately named “Trevor,” this duck moves between Burnaby Lake and Deer Lake, both located in suburban Vancouver. Trevor first made a splash in 2018, when he was sighted swimming between the common mallards native to the area.
Tourists flocked to the lake in order to take pictures of the brightly colored duck, who is unmistakable with his orange, purple, white, and blue feathers. However, after the initial sightings in 2018, Trevor disappeared and wasn’t seen again until November 2019, when a local photographer spotted him and got some new photographs. Come spring, he’d disappeared again to the disappointment of locals, but luckily he’s back again in 2020 to strut his stuff for photographers.
Trevor isn’t the only Mandarin duck to make a splash. In 2018, another male Mandarin made a name for himself when he was spotted in Central Park. Affectionately named Mandarin Patinkin after Broadway actor Mandy Patinkin, he caused a sensation and was named “New York’s Most Eligible Bachelor” by New York Magazine‘s The Cut. This caused the bird to also get the nickname “Hot Duck.” Bird lovers watched his every movement as he also visited Brooklyn and New Jersey.
Though Mandarin Patinkin was banded, his origins were unknown and he ended up disappearing just as mysteriously as he appeared. His last sighting was in March 2019. While the enthusiasm for these exotic Mandarins is understandable, there is another side to consider. These animals are not native and are most likely escaped domestic pets. This is particularly true of the Central Park duck, which had a band.
In fact, the only Mandarin duck colonies that exist in North America—the largest is in northern California—were formed by escaped or released domestic ducks. The danger with this is that these non-native species can sometimes become invasive. As they don’t have any natural predators in the ecosystem they’re dropped into, they can quickly spiral out of control and overrun local wildlife. This is why there are strict controls on the ownership and release of exotic animals. In fact, the reason why no one stepped forward to claim the Central Park duck is probably because it’s actually illegal to own these animals as pets in the city.
So while we can admire their colorful plumage and try to unravel the mystery of where they came from, we should also remember to appreciate the native mallards we already have.