Among the most common questions the Conservancy gets from Central Park visitors is this classic: Where do the ducks go in winter?
Chances are the person asking has just finished reading J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, says Sara Cedar Miller, the Conservancy's historian and official photographer for Central Park. The question that she and so many Conservancy gardeners get this time of year was first asked by the book's main character, Holden Caulfield:
I live in New York, and I was thinking about the lagoon in Central Park, down near Central Park South. … I was wondering where the ducks went when the lagoon got all icy and frozen over. I wondered if some guy came in a truck and took them away to a zoo or something. Or if they just flew away.
The short answer: Even in the cold of winter, you're likely to spot the ducks at the Pond in Central Park.
"I have no idea what Salinger was thinking," Miller says. "I've worked for the Park for 27 years, and I've always seen the ducks in winter."
Ducks can survive the cold and stay in Central Park as long as there is open water and access to the plants below for feeding. If water bodies freeze over, the waterfowl migrate south. Today, it's uncommon for the Park's water bodies to completely freeze over, so migration doesn't happen very often. You'll find many waterfowl stay year-round, including Canada geese, Mute swan, black-crowned night heron, ring-billed and herring gulls, wood ducks, ring-necked ducks and mallards.
So no, Holden. There are no men in trucks taking the ducks to the zoo. Some do fly away, yes. But most likely? You'll see them here in Central Park, all winter long.