Last month, New Yorkers, excitable people that we are, were delighted by the arrival of a very hot and mysterious duck in Central Park. The Mandarin Duck is native to East Asia and Europe, it radiates divine beauty, and experts have no idea how it got here. Birders, as well as people merely looking for a respite from the world’s most depressing news cycle, flocked to Central Park to get a glimpse of this sexy and fabulous duck.
But then I learned something that shook me to my core.
There is a second duck. It’s in Vancouver, Canada, where it has been living since May because the Canadians are too polite to brag about it. It’s the same breed. And nobody knows where it came from.
What began as a charming mystery has started to feel more like a sinister global conspiracy. Why would there be two hot ducks? Are the ducks siblings, or perhaps … clones? And how did they end up in Vancouver and New York, two cities thousands of miles apart? Some theories:
1) A Banksy-esque prankster is releasing these ducks around the world as part of a conceptual art project.
2) It’s a Jonathan Franzen–led conspiracy to get the general public to care about birds.
3) Nathan Fielder sketch.
4) Viral marketing for all-duck reboot of The Mighty Ducks.
5) Escapees from illicit duck smuggling ring across the Canada–U.S. border.
6) Climate change?
7) The ducks were twins separated in their parents’ messy divorce. One of them moved to Vancouver and one of them moved to New York, and soon they will reconnect at duck summer-camp and try to get their parents back together.
8) It’s the same duck who was cursed by a wizard and given the power to teleport.
9) Daniel Day-Lewis prepping for a role.
10) Sign of the apocalypse.
I was starting to feel very scared. But then I got on the phone with David Barrett, a.k.a. “Manhattan Bird Alert,” and he said that the actual story is probably a lot more mundane.
“In the United States [and Canada], the Mandarin duck isn’t wild,” he tells me. “It will only be coming from captivity of some sort, and the possibilities are a zoo or private owner.” Apparently every year, a number of domestic ducks get dumped in Central Park, and we just don’t noticed them because they aren’t as hot (he says they are usually “very drab”). David explains our Mandarin duck probably flew from a farm in New Jersey, or was a pet that someone chose to release. As for the Vancouver duck, he says, “There are farms throughout the country that have these Mandarin ducks and occasionally they escape, so that’s the source in general in North America, and it’s probably also how the Vancouver duck got there.”
I told him some of my theories, which he quickly shot down. “There’s no worldwide outbreak of them, they pop up,” he added. “I think now that our duck is in the news, other people are more attuned.”
Sorry David, but I am not convinced.
Still — and I’m sorry to bring this up even though we have obviously all been thinking it — if something horrible happens to the Central Park duck, there’s always the Vancouver duck, which the Canadians have been treating with custom deference.