LAKELAND, Fla. - Meet Lakeland's newest lakefront addition.
"He's unique; he doesn't look real," said Janet Grant of Lakeland.
"Colorful," offered Kevin Cook with the City of Lakeland.
John Drexel, taking pictures, summed it up with, "Awesome."
The addition to the lake is actually a non-native Mandarin Duck; an exotic species found mostly in Asia.
"They are beautiful, they're very striking and very distinct. And they do stand out," said Cook.
Recently, Lakeland added two mating pairs of Mandarin Ducks to Lake Mirror as part of an enhancement to the city.
"It is the front door of the City of Lakeland and it just adds beauty to the place," explained Cook.
Since the Queen of England donated two royal swans decades ago, the swan has remained Lakeland's most recognizable symbol. City leaders hope the Mandarin Ducks reach the same level of popularity.
"For us, it just seems like it's second nature because we have the swans on Lake Morton of course; and our citizens really like to have the interaction with the swans. It's not uncommon to see families out feeding the swans so it's just another extension of that," Cook said.
Word is starting to spread among wildlife enthusiasts and visitors that just want to catch a glimpse of the colorful ducks.
Grant was out for a walk with her camera and tripod.
"It's cool because people come here to see the swans, they find out about a new duck. So we all want to get pictures and see it in person," she said.
It took years for the swans to build their loyal following. Now, it appears the Mandarin Ducks may just become the city's latest calling card.
"It's just exhilarating to find something that you don't normally find out here everyday," Drexel said.
The city said that the ducks were obtained from an authorized exotic animal dealer from Chicago. The Mandarin would cost several hundred dollars if bought outright.
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