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Winston the Duck Wins Over Inwood Hill Park

By Farran Powell | August 21, 2012 8:37am

INWOOD — A large white duck named "Winston" has stolen the hearts of Park Rangers and park-goers at Inwood Hill Park.

The white-feathered duck— who's as big as a goose — towers over the native brown-plumed mallard ducks that come ashore along the rocks of Spuyten Duyvil Creek and into the salt marsh near the park's entrance at Indian Road and 218th Street.

"It's two to three years since I first noticed him," said Inwood resident Angelo Monserrate, 58. "I see the kids feed him and they get a kick out of him."

Parents and caregivers with toddlers and pre-school kids flocked to the park benches near the park's Nature Conservancy to catch a glimpse of the famed red-billed duck on Friday.

"We come here every day," said caregiver Cheryl Kityana, who visited the park last week with two small children. "Sometimes we come and I don't see him, but they love him."

Since its appearance this summer, a concerned group of Inwood residents have kept a watchful eye on the well-being of the park's white duck.

"Too bad none of us has a good size yard for him and other friends." park-goer Rosemarie Kliegman wrote on an Inwood Facebook page. "He really is sweet and I worry as well."

Winston is is often spotted by park visitors along the outers shores of the creek, but never in the water.

"He'll just be wherever there is land," said 19-year-old park ranger Nicole Rysenzynski who usually spots the white duck along the fence. "And, I've seen him try to be friends with the geese."

Experts say it's likely that Winston is a domesticated duck. Domestic ducks often lose the ability to "dabble," or swim, like their wild counterparts, which feed on aquatic vegetation, and will graze on land, according to Glen Phillips, executive director of the NYC Audubon.

"Often these ducks that turn up in city parks were science fair projects or Easter presents," Phillips said. "The same thing happens to bunnies and baby chicks that get dumped in the park. I know of similar ducks in Prospect Park in Brooklyn."

Although the Parks Department said it does not have "specific restrictions prohibiting releasing domestic ducks in the park," individuals who dump domestic animals in parks can be charged for animal cruelty and violating environmental conservation laws, according to ‪the New York State Bar Association on Animal Law.

For now, Inwood residents said they plan to keep an eye out for the duck, which they worry might not do well in the cold of winter. 

Farm Animal Shelters, an organization that provides protection and refuge to farm animals, says ducks can live six to eight years.

Parks officials said Winston appeared healthy when it was last examined by the department.

"‪It appears to be getting new feathers, but seems healthy," wrote Parks spokesman Phil Abramson in an email. "The Rangers will continue to monitor the duck.‬"