Before New York City's Mandarin duck, there was Burnaby's

The Mandarin duck, native to East Asia, gained international fame after being sighted in New York City. Turns out the same duck has been spotted in Burnaby for the past six months.

The elusive duck is native to East Asia, which raises the question: how did it end up here?

The Mandarin duck, revered by bird watchers for its multicoloured feathers, is captured here floating on Burnaby Lake. (Irene Lau/Supplied)

Before a Mandarin duck in New York City gained international recognition this week, another duck of the same plumage had already made several low-key appearances in Burnaby over the past six months.

Mandarin ducks are renowned for their dazzling multicoloured feathers and regarded by some as the world's most beautiful bird.

They're also native to East Asia, which is why bird watchers were gobsmacked when one was spotted in Manhattan's Central Park in early October.

Subsequent media reports have drawn hundreds of onlookers to Central Park and catapulted the bird to Internet fame. 

But since spring, Metro Vancouver has had its own Mandarin duck floating idly on Burnaby Lake, drawing the rapt attention of local bird watchers and nature photographers. 

"The Burnaby Lake community has been very Canadian-like and not bothered him too much," said Irene Lau, chair of the Burnaby Lake Park Association.

"It's kept a respectful distance." 

Regular sightings 

Sightings of the bird started to pop up in May.

After speaking with several local birders, Lau said it's believed the duck escaped from a hobby farm, although no one knows which one.

A Mandarin duck was also spotted at Vancouver's Queen Elizabeth Park and the Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park, although it's unclear whether it was the same one, Lau said.

But Burnaby Lake has proven most reliable for bird watchers and photographers, who are regularly stationed alongside the water for a fleeting glimpse of the Mandarin duck, which is a relative of the resident wood duck.

Lau finally came face to face with the bird in late September.

"It's just magnificent," she said. "It's wonderful to see pictures, but there's nothing quite like seeing it for yourself."

Don't just look at the water

If you want to catch a glimpse of the elusive duck, make sure to look up. Mandarin ducks like to perch high in trees.

Lau encourages onlookers to keep a respectful distance and to be ready to use the zoom function on a phone or camera. Use bird seed, not bread, to feed the ducks, she said. 

It's not known how much longer the duck will stay — but for now, "life is pretty good at the lake," Lau said.

The Mandarin duck standing beside its cousin, the wood duck. (Irene Lau/Supplied)


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