Initially, birders rejoiced at the rare New York City sighting of a common merganser, an elegant-looking duck with a regal auburn crest, in Central Park.

But as photos of the duck spread quickly on social media, so did concern: a piece of discarded plastic appeared jammed in the duck’s distinctive narrow bill, preventing it from feeding.

“It showed behavior indicative of it not being well, of it being starved,” said David Barrett, a Manhattan birder who has been monitoring the duck. On Thursday, he posted some of the first photos of it.

New York City’s Parks Department became so concerned for the duck that it began putting together a rescue plan. 

On Monday, the agency said it would send park rangers onto Central Park Lake in kayaks to rescue the duck during its rare visit to New York. A common merganser may only be seen in the city perhaps once a year during migratory travels north.

The Parks Department’s efforts came after failed rescue missionsover the weekend by several birders who were concerned that the plastic was preventing the duck from diving for food.

“It can’t close its throat, so when it dives, water rushes in and prevents it from feeding,” said Bradley Kane, a bird photographer in Manhattan whose close-up photos of the duck on Twitter on Saturday clearly showed the plastic problem. “It’s a wild bird — it’s not going to take bread from strangers.”

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