Late Saturday afternoon, we walked around Leverett Pond in Boston’s Olmsted Park, in search of a mandarin duck. I had heard this duck was on the loose from The Rambling Brambling.
Mallards abounded in the area; we saw 140 of them. Three male ring-necked ducks swam past us in a line.
We met a group of three birders, who had seen wood ducks but not the mandarin. They claimed to have seen a pair of mandarins earlier that week. We met more birders, none of whom had managed a sighting.
We then spotted some wood ducks next to an island closer to the Brookline bank but on the side of the island facing the Boston side.
This was our first time seeing wood ducks, gorgeously painted creatures.
We knew the mandarin was hanging out with these ducks. Nearby, a birder had a scope pointed at the flock. Yes, he said, the mandarin is here. He let us use his scope to find it.
The mandarin duck has feathers more brightly-colored than a wood duck, more like a parrot than a duck. The photos didn’t turn out so well in the day’s fading light, but the bird stunned on the scope.
Mandarins are closely related to wood ducks and this bird has become one with the wood duck flock. We saw him chasing a female wood duck. Contrary to the report of the birding group, we did not see a second mandarin.
No one yet knows where this bird came from. Native to east Asia, there are breeding populations in Europe and California (see OC Birder Girl for a report in Orange County and how to distinguish mandarin ducks from wood ducks). Maybe he will succesfully court a wood duck and we can report hybrids in the spring.
Other blog reports on this duck: