, Updated: February 7, 2019- 10:07 AM
Gliding through the mud-colored mallards over the frosty waters of Ridley Park Lake, he was a king among commoners. Showing off his technicolor plume, he paused before paddling near the photographer on the water’s edge, a feathered model beckoning for a glamour shot on an algae-lined runway.
His best angles? All of them.
Even in the waning winter light, Brian Quindlen knew what he saw: The “” had come to Delaware County.
“Seeing something like that, it just makes you feel like a kid again,” said Quindlen, an avid Philadelphia bird-watcher who rushed to East Lake Park in Ridley Park on a Sunday in January after receiving a that the rare fowl sporting a colorful coat in hues of reds, blues, purples, and greens had landed in the area.
“This things sticks out," he said. "It’s like looking at a gem in a very dreary winter haystack, you know what I mean?”
The Mandarin duck — an arrestingly handsome and out-of-place last fall — is native to East Asia, with feral populations in .
Not to be confused with or , the Mandarin “hot duck” rose to viral fame and left the internet quacking after waddling around a Central Park pond last fall, becoming fodder for and alike.
If the multihued waterfowl are spotted in areas like New York or the Philadelphia region, “you can bet that they’re " or bred in captivity, said Quindlen, 31, who has been bird-watching for more than 20 years and is a council member of the Delaware County Ornithological Club.
Quindlen, a fifth-grade teacher at Bethel Springs Elementary School, said he “lives hard to bird hard," and teaches after-school and summer birding programs for his students, in addition to his own recreational bird-watching.
Although he is unsure of the dazzling Delaware County duck’s origin story, Quindlen said the bird’s unusually friendly behavior toward humans and lack of bands on its legs leads him to believe it was bred in captivity.
One thing, however, is certain. The Ridley Park bird is not the same “hot duck” spotted in Manhattan and . The Central Park celebrity , and 100 miles northeast in New York on the same day Quindlen witnessed the waterfowl in Delaware County.
And while the Central Park duck has been making in Manhattan since it was first spotted in October, the Delco duck may have just been stopping by. The next day, Ridley Park Lake was completely frozen, the bird nowhere to be seen, he said.
Its whereabouts have not since been reported by Philly’s birding community.
But wherever he may be, the Delco duck and his famous Central Park lookalike may soon learn there’s more to life than being.