The Awful Truth About Central Park's Mandarin Duck

This duck sucks.

Courtesy of Phil McGrew

The internet has fallen in love with a lone Mandarin duck ever since it appeared in New York City’s Central Park. But this sexy bird isn’t “New York City’s most eligible bachelor,” as New York Magazine has suggested. That’s not to say the Mandarin duck is less beautiful than other ducks, nor that he’s more of a jerk than other ducks. It’s just that — and I know some people will be angry to read this — he’s just not that special.

For one, he’s prone to fits of aggression. In a tweet on Tuesday night, Manhattan Bird Alert showed the Mandarin duck charging one of the local mallards, beak open, eyes wide, water flying all around.

“The feisty MANDARIN DUCK often chases down and nips at the larger Mallards when they invade his space or otherwise annoy him,” reads the tweet, which may lead the casual observer to believe that the Mandarin duck is actually a boorish brute, wreaking havoc on the otherwise chill Central Park ducks.

But David Barrett, an investor and computer scientist who created and runs the @BirdCentralPark Twitter account, takes exception to characterizing the Mandarin duck as a jerk.

“I would not use those words!” Barrett tells Inverse, though he doesn’t deny that the Mandarin duck has some attitude. “It is assertive and feisty.”

“It defends its space, as most ducks do, particularly males,” he added.

And look, we know he’s beautiful. Hot, even. If you mention, “the hot duck” to a New Yorker, most people will know exactly which hot duck you’re talking about. Nonetheless, there are some very good reasons that a Mandarin duck doesn’t stand up to its eligible bachelor reputation.

He Has a Chip on His Shoulder

Mandarin ducks, as the name suggests, are native to East Asia. And while there are some wild populations in a couple of US states (California and North Carolina), New York is not one of them. As many birders — including Barrett — have pointed out, the Mandarin duck has a plastic band on his leg, indicating that he is not wild. Barrett told NY Mag earlier this month that the Asian waterfowl likely escaped from a farm in New Jersey or was released in the park by its owner.

And while New York is an international city, one made greater by its immigrant communities and the culture people bring to the city, the simple fact is that the hot duck is a transplant — and a recent one at that. Its status as a lone newcomer makes it necessary for the Mandarin duck to overcompensate a bit, says Barrett.

“As the only member of its species at the pond, and a somewhat smaller duck, it needs to be a bit more assertive,” he said. “And it is.”

He’s Just a Little Too Flashy

We get it, duck. You’re hot. No need to rub it in everyone’s faces. It’s hard enough to walk around in Manhattan, among models decked out in couture and business bros in vests, now New Yorkers have to compare themselves to a duck? It’s not fair. Get out of here, you hot-ass duck.

Don’t get us wrong; we at Inverse don’t have a particular grudge against the hot duck. As Barrett and many other observers have noted, both in New York and elsewhere that Mandarin ducks have made their homes, the Mandarin duck often lives peacefully alongside local species.

“It is overwhelmingly peaceful. And it gets along fine with the other ducks and geese,” said Barrett, who has become the hot duck’s de facto spokesperson because of his Twitter presence. “Often swimming with them, resting on a rock with them, or feeding with them.”

So, fine. We admit it. The hot Mandarin duck seems like he’s actually pretty nice. But there’s a very good reason you don’t want to go home with him.

Ducks Have Horrible Nightmare Penises

Whether it’s a mallard or a Mandarin duck, male ducks have some seriously scary genitals. When a male duck mates, its penis — which can be as long as 6 or 7 inches — basically explodes from its body in less than a second. The projectile penis, which is shaped like a corkscrew, comes in handy because ducks are not gentle lovers. In fact, many duck species are well known to engage in “forced copulation,” which is exactly what it sounds like. In the video below, a male Mandarin duck can be seen mating with a female duck of its same species, and it does not look fun. (Skip to about three minutes in to see the deed.)

And if by now you’re still not convinced that the Mandarin duck isn’t a man you want to build a life with, maybe this last point will help.

The Mandarin Duck Will Go Out for the Proverbial Pack of Smokes

That’s right. He may be handsome, beautiful, even resplendent in his colorful plumage, but the Mandarin duck is known for being an absentee father. As Patricia Edmonds wrote in National Geographic in 2015, once a Mandarin duck’s eggs hatch, the female cares for the hatchlings while the male goes off and hangs out with his bros. The deadbeat dads spend all summer in “molting parties,” shedding their sexy feathers and basically being good-for-nothings.

So yes, the Central Park duck is hot. But please, take a long hard look at your life before you decide he’s the man you want to spend it with.

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