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Sometime in 2018, a Mandarin duck showed up at Burnaby Lake and caused quite a stir. Mandarins are not usually found in North America as they are endemic to Eurasia (Palearctic). He caused quite a stir, partly because he’s a rarity and also because Mandarin ducks are strikingly beautiful with a kaleidoscope of colours and intricate patterns adorning their feathers.

You gotta admit – that’s a gorgeous bird! (photo credit: C. Rankin)

The head of the Mandarin duck is crowned with a metallic green crest that shines iridescently in the sunlight, while its face is adorned with a distinctive orange beak and a pair of piercing dark eyes. His body has a palette of blue, green, and purple feathers, which form a unique and intricate pattern that seems almost too perfect to be natural. Its wings have a mix of bold stripes and subtle spots, which blend together to create a mesmerizing display of colour and pattern. The Mandarin duck is all decked out with vivid colours and extra tail fins whose only function is to impress the ladies who happen to be swimming by.

Trevor the Mandarin duck stretching his legs.

Our handsome drake was christened “TREVOR” by the locals, apparently named after the supervillian and archenemy of Iron Man. The Mandarin is the alter ego of Trevor Slattery in the Marvel story. For whatever reason, Trevor hung around for 4 years, changing lakes occasionally. He was a local celebrity and people, including us, drove from great distances to catch a glimpse of him. I last saw him in March 2022 when he looked a little bedraggled. Was he aging, ill or just not ready yet for the mating season? 

Trevor striking a thoughtful pose.

Where did he come from?  There appears to be a debate, surprisingly acrimonious at times and splitting into two camps; the “pet releasers” – who get all riled up in a PETA kind of way – and the lost wanderers” – who get equally indignant about birds blown in the wrong direction by climate change. As far as I’m aware, there’s no hard evidence favouring either group.

The “pet releasers” have a long pedigree, being responsible for rabbits in Australia, cats in New Zealand, house sparrows in North America, Muntjac deer in the UK and much more over the years. 

As for “the lost wanderers”, there is a constant trickle of them. The excitement caused by a sighting creates a buzz, as avid birders race to the area to see it. For example, in October 2021, while walking around Mill Lake in Abbotsford BC, I spotted a gaggle of adult Long-Lensed Homo Sapiens prowling around a Laburnum tree. They were getting photos of a Cape May Warbler, a lost wanderer not native to Southern BC. As a member of a similar sub-species, the Lesser-Cell-Phone-Crested Homo Sapien, I also got some pictures. 

The Cape May warbler – a “lost wanderer” that found himself in Mill Lake Park, Abbotsford, BC

He stayed a while, then left, hopefully, to get back to his migratory pathway. (Check out my photos of him HERE.)

Trevor was usually seen with his constant companion, a female Wood duck but there’s no evidence they interbreed, so there he was, all dressed up and nowhere to go. Sometimes, as we stood around watching him, we would hear mumblings that someone should introduce a female Mandarin duck, but fortunately, this didn’t happen.

Trevor with his lady friend the Wood duck, Burnaby Lake, Canada.

Sadly, Trevor hasn’t been seen in 2023. After enquiring of some birding groups, the consensus is that he fell prey to a predatory bird, (there’s rumour of scattered feathers, suggesting a “struggle”). Predation from land and air is a constant threat to ducks. Camouflage is advantageous, but mandarin ducks don’t “do” camouflage, so this would have increased his risk. 

Trevor with a Wood duck friend, a Common Teal and a female Mallard, Burnaby Lake.

It looks like he’s gone – for good.

Of course he could possibly have migrated back to Eurasia, or be hanging out with Elvis and all the other dead celebrities, living the good life somewhere off the radar.

RIP Trevor!

Our resident bird-watcher Colin Rankin

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