New Yorkers who fret over the fate of the Central Park ducks in the winter, as Holden Caulfield did, may have to find something else to worry about this year. Thanks to milder winters, the ducks that populate the park should have no problem staying put. "New York winters are not what they were," explains Parks Commissioner Henry Stern. "The pond doesn't freeze anymore."
It's not just pleasant temperatures that keep the mallards and black ducks in the city; microscopic plant life thrives in warmer weather, as do tourists, and together they supply the waterfowl with a steady diet. "If there were no human beings in Manhattan," says Mary Anne McNulty, deputy director of the Urban Park Rangers, "they would probably all leave by the end of November like normal ducks."
As temperatures drop, the ducks will seek out the larger bodies of water in the park. And if they do have to head south, the ducks can fly as high as 20,000 feet, reaching speeds of up to 60 miles per hour. A few unfortunate ones, though, get left behind. Those fluffy white ducks that people buy as cuddly pets for Easter, and then often abandon in the park when they get too big, are doomed if it gets too cold. "They don't migrate," explains McNulty. "They're lucky if they can swim."