HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — A rare but colorful mandarin duck spotted at Pendleton Park has been turning heads recently — and luring birders to the park.

The duck was first reported on ebird.org’s Texas Rare Bird Alert page on Oct. 15 by Isaac Phillips.

“[He] waddled right up to us as we arrived at the park,” Phillips wrote on the alert page. “Seems to be enjoying the mixed duck group at the park.”

A mandarin duck is photographed Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, at Pendleton Park in Harlingen, Texas. (Photo from KVEO and ValleyCentral.com)

The male might be with a female, according to one birder, who reported seeing both Oct. 16. The male was spotted by ValleyCentral on Saturday, confirming the duck has remained at the park.

Since, the colorful male bird continues to frequent the park, gaining attention with its reddish-orange face and whiskers. Originally a non-native species in North America, the mandarin duck was once widespread in East Asia and was likely introduced to the United States in isolated numbers as pets that escaped and started to reproduce, according to Wikipedia, which also states the species is in decline across the world, with less than 1,000 breeding pairs in East Asia today.

The mandarin duck is similar to the native wood duck, but there are differences:

  • A Texas wood duck has orange eyes, whereas the mandarin duck has black eyes.
  • The mandarin duck has orangish-red wing feathers that rise upward.
  • The colorful markings of both ducks differ but are each striking in their own way.

If the bird sticks around, it might prove to be a spectacle as birders arrive soon for the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, which closes its online registration on Friday, Oct. 28.

The festival opens Nov. 9.

(Information from ValleyCentral.com)