KINGSPORT, Tenn. - A popular Kingsport restaurant, the Riverfront Restaurant, is known for its seafood, but for the past couple of weeks it has some new customers that stop by for something that's not on the menu -- duck.
Not just any duck, but a rare duck for this region known as the Harlequin. It can be seen just about every day right off the deck of the restaurant.
There's no shortage of waterfowl along the banks of the South Holston river in Kingport, but one little duck has caused bird watchers from around the nation to sit up and take notice: the Harlequin Duck.
"The Harlequin Duck here on the Kingsport Birding Trail was first reported January 31 when Brooke and Jean Potter of Elizabethton were out here bird watching on the river and recognized the rare duck," says Kingsport Birding Trail coordinator Rack Cross.
It's rare because it's a long way from home; itss normal range is in the northeast and northwest United States. The environment on the river is similar to what it's used to: cold, fast-moving water with rocky shores.
Since that first sighting, word has traveled fast. "There are folks that are monitoring the bird via the internet reports from as far away as Miami, Florida, Minnesota and it's creating interest nationwide basically," Cross said.
It's also been good for business at the Riverfront Restaurant, where you can view the bird from their back porch dining room. "One evening we had 15 to 20 people out here with cameras and binoculars and I went out and asked, "what's going on?" They pointed it out and explained that we had a Harlequin Duck native from the west coast of the U.S.," Riverfront owner Wayne Michelli said.
Now all of the employees are on the lookout for the little duck. "We've of course educated our employees and staff to point it out to people because people will be looking out the window and say, "what's everybody looking at?" We'll point it out to them and she's been plenty popular here on the river," he said.
And the little duck is drawing more visitors each day to our region.