HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — For a couple weeks, a rare mandarin duck drew people in flocks to Pendleton Park.
Colorful and splashy, he waddled, swam and preened before birders and photographers who came to sneak a peek of the exotic fowl before it had a chance to fly off — or rather, to duck out.
What few could have predicted, the lucky duck drove off in true Texas style, riding shotgun in a pickup Saturday morning. But don’t worry, he was not ab-duck-ted.
“I was contacted Sunday evening by individuals whose duck had gone missing and they had seen it in [the news] regarding a mandarin duck,” Michael Gonzalez, a game warden with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, told ValleyCentral.
Now reunited with its owners, the bird didn’t have to migrant far to find home as it belongs to a Harlingen family.
“They were able to provide photographs of themselves with the duck, actually of them holding the duck, and it was at their residence,” Gonzalez said. “It was not some stock photo from the internet or anything like that.”
Initially, when the owners bought the duck, its wings were clipped, the game warden said.
“But ducks molt, and their wings do grow. So it did have the ability, so it did get out of their [yard],” Gonzalez said.
However, before collecting their pet, the Harlingen family wanted to take all necessary steps to work with TPWD officials, in case picking up their pet ruffled anyone’s feathers. After all, the duck had nestled into the focus of news media and waddled into the watchful eyes of an admiring public since escaping from its backyard.
“They knew right from the beginning, because they are avid birders themselves,” Gonzalez said. “They knew and said, ‘That’s why we are calling you because we don’t want to get in trouble for picking up our duck.'”
The game warden confirmed that state and federal rules did not prohibit them from owning the duck, which is banded on one leg, nor would any laws prevent them from reclaiming it from the park. He met with the owners at Pendleton Park on Wednesday.
“The owners were reluctant to take [the duck home] because there were a lot of people there taking photos of the duck and showing interest,” Gonzalez said. “And they were like, ‘Now we feel like the bad guys coming to take our duck.”
Some of those people that day had come as far as Corpus Christi and another one from outside the state, Gonzalez said. So the owners decided to leave the duck for a couple more days and let people enjoy the opportunity to see it and take photos.
“They respect the fact that people enjoy taking pictures of these animals and wanted to give people opportunity to do so,” the game warden said. “With it being a few more days, however, more people got word of it and more people showed up.”
Gonzalez confirmed the owners picked up the duck Saturday. The owners were offered an opportunity to talk with ValleyCentral but were not immediately available for comment.
“These people did everything the right way,” Gonzalez said. “Rather than just going out there and grabbing it, they wanted to make sure to cover all their bases.”