A feisty newcomer sporting colorful plumage recently surfaced along the shores of White Rock Lake in Dallas.
Amidst the crowd of mallards, wood ducks, Muscovy ducks, and Canada geese that gather nightly at Sunset Bay, a lone waterbird stood out: a male mandarin duck. His distinctive orange-red whiskers distinguished him from the crowd.
Mandarin ducks (Latin: Aix galericulata) are native inhabitants of China, Japan and eastern Russia. Mandarins observed in the wild in the United States are believed to be escapees from private collections.
To keep references easy, I’ll just call the mandarin drake who showed up at White Rock Manny. After all, that was the name given to a male mandarin who made a splash when he randomly appeared in the Dallas suburb of Irving at Centennial Park in 2016, drawing media coverage and admirers.
Manny made his debut appearance this year in Dallas at the end of May. I heard about his arrival on the popular Birds of Texas Facebook page. I rushed out to the lake the same day I heard of his arrival, on May 22. I was not alone. Manny’s arrival drew a small crowd of admiring photographers. We marveled at his appearance and stalked him from the shoreline.
When I first arrived, after scanning the water, I quickly spotted Manny on a coveted spot among waterbirds. He was perched atop a partially submerged tree branch jutting out of the lake.
This was the first sign that Manny wasn’t afraid to take charge, and stake out his perch in the most coveted position in the bay. He stood his ground, even as wood ducks — who as their name implies love trees — circled enviously.
From atop the branch, he took a nap while standing on one foot (this looks like doing yoga while sleeping).
Manny also took the opportunity to preen his pretty feathers.
But when other birds attempted to join Manny on the tree branch, he took an offensive stance and aggressively leaned forward.
Indeed, mandarin ducks enjoy wooded ponds. According to a Lincoln Park Zoo fact sheet, females build their nests in tree holes that sometimes can be up to 30 feet above ground.
Once in the water, Manny cruised around solo. An orange feather on his back jutted out like a sail.
But he wasn’t alone for long. Every evening, a man visits Sunset Bay to put out corn feed for the birds. Manny hopped out of the water and curiously approached the other birds as they swarmed the shore and devoured the corn.
Manny appeared to be a bit more curious than hungry. He lingered at the edge of the food party.
The food did not hold Manny’s attention for long, and he ventured back to the water’s edge.
Manny seemed to find a new family amidst a group of wood ducks, accepted by the similarly colorful birds. Indeed, their colorful plumage seems to indicate that they are closely related.
The wood ducks and the lone Manny sailed away back into the calm Sunset Bay waters.
Another similarity between mandarin ducks and wood ducks is that males are colorful and females are mostly brown in color.
Before we left, Manny confidently took his post back on the tree limb, to take in the sunset.
Mandarin ducks are colorful, confident ducks that well deserve their reputation as one of the most beautiful varieties of duck. I hope to see him again some day.