HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — His name is Fabio, and his family could not believe he was not aflutter.

A pet belonging to a Harlingen family, this mandarin duck vanished from their backyard three months ago after heavy rain flooded the mostly rural neighborhood on Harlingen’s northwest side. Like Fabio’s namesake — the actor with the flowing hair — this mandarin duck has a penchant for turning heads, and that’s how he found himself back home this weekend.

Along the way, he had developed into a local celebrity.

Fabio and his feathered friends hang out at their duck pond in the Flores’ backyard on Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. (ValleyCentral)

“The flood came, and we lost him,” said Ivonne Flores, who bought Fabio as a duckling from a breeder in Mission. “He couldn’t fly! That’s what we thought because his wings were clipped.”

The exotic duck must have waddled along to a canal and then swam off until he learned to fly, the Flores family told ValleyCentral. The last time they saw Fabio, he was a bit of an ugly duckling, or at least hadn’t yet developed his beautiful plumage.

“He didn’t have those pretty colors,” Ivonne said. “He was more brownish.”

However, having set off from home, Fabio managed to find his good looks, developing into an adult drake with starkly beautiful reddish-orange wings that stick up like sails.

A mandarin duck named Fabio was spotted at Pendleton Park in Harlingen. (ValleyCentral)

A couple weeks ago, the cameras discovered Fabio, who willingly posed for photos at Pendleton Park and attracted onlookers and birders alike, gathering like adoring fans or paparazzi with cameras and zoom lenses. Some onlookers came from across town. Others came from out of state to see the bird.

Fabio, himself, had only travelled less than four miles, by way of a car—and even shorter as the crow flies. But it’s not likely Fabio would have made the trip to Pendleton Park in either of those ways.

“He had never flown before,” Ivonne said. “And he had never tried.”

Although, at some point, the fledgling star found his wings.

“He probably saw some ducks flying and took off with them,” suggested Jose Flores, Ivonne’s husband.

The weeks and months passed as the duck remained missing. Then the case was quacked wide open when ValleyCentral reported on the sighting of a rare and colorful duck, an unexpected discovery given that mandarin ducks are native to East Asia—not south Texas.

The family saw Fabio in the news and recognized their prized pet under the spotlight. Immediately, the owners wanted to rush to Fabio, but they found it difficult to arrange a quiet meeting with the celebrity amid his newly busy schedule modeling for the cameras.

Fabio poses for the camera Monday, Oct. 31, 2022, at his home in Harlingen. (ValleyCentral)

“There were a lot of people there filming and taking pictures,” Ivonne said. They didn’t want any negative attention that might come with scooping up a duck, so they sought permission and advice from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, who authenticated their ownership and that no rules would be violated in recovering the duck.

“Two days, later [TPWD] said ‘you’re good to go. You can go get him whenever,” Ivonne said. “So we went [Oct. 26], but there were people there taking pictures that were coming from out of town. So we just thought, no, you know what, let’s just wait because it’s not fair. He’s beautiful. He’s a rare thing. So we left him there [a little longer].”

The Harlingen couple finally picked up Fabio on Oct. 29 and took him home.

Fabio swims with his pals at home in Harlingen. (ValleyCentral)

On Monday, ValleyCentral watched Fabio swimming again in the family’s manmade duck pond along with five other ducks of various species. Fabio might have been smaller than his pals, but he stood out with his exotic charm.

How has Fabio’s newfound celebrity changed him?

“He’s fiesty,” Ivonne said. “He wants to be the center of attention.”

As far as Ivonne is concerned, he is the center of attention, even back home where he’s safe again in the care of the Flores family.

“This means a lot, because it’s not how much Fabio cost me — it’s just that he’s a pet,” Ivonne said. “He was a part of us. He is a part of us.”