The mandarin duck inhabiting Central Park, dubbed the hot duck, is a cultural phenomenon. Since the first sighting on October 10, the duck has become a huge attraction, drawing crowds of people to the Central Park pond to pay homage or to see the hot duck preen and chase around the mallards.
But mystery still surrounds the hot duck. Nobody knows how it got to Central Park, thousands of miles away from its native home of eastern Asia. And sometimes it disappears for days on end.
A few weeks ago my girlfriend and I were headed to Central Park to see the hot duck, but on the train we checked Twitter and realized the mandarin duck hadn’t been seen that day. It was gone.
From now on, no one else has to face that trauma. We launched a website, hotduck.today, that tracks mandarin duck sightings in Central Park and displays a simple YES or NO to let visitors know if the duck has been spotted today.
The website runs singularly based on the Twitter account Manhattan Bird Alert, aka @BirdCentralPark, but there’s now an internal Quartz effort to use machine learning to identify new pictures of the duck for a more varied feed of duck sourcing. The Manhattan Bird Alert Twitter feed is also embedded underneath our bot’s duck prognostication, in case you want to see a recent picture of the hot duck, check if the bot is wrong, or just see a picture of a bird.
If you want to see the code, it’s all open source and available here. If it’s broken, feel free to give me a shout on Twitter.
Enjoy the bird!