Mandarin duckScientific Name Aix galericulata

Conservation Status Least Concern

Appearance

Mandarin ducks have extremely differently males and females. The male is brightly coloured. The beak is red, around the eyes and across the sides of the head is white while the cheeks feature reddish feathers which resemble whiskers. Running across the top of the head is a crest of greenish black turning to brown and black as it runs down the back of the head.

The breast is purple with white striping. The flanks are ruddy with blue-green edges and tipped with two orange sails. The feet are coloured orange with grey webbing between the toes.

Following the breeding season the male moults and will resemble the female for a period of time.

Females are coloured grey across most of the body with blotches of white on the underside and around the eye. The beak is pink. Females also have a smaller crest.

White mutations also exist in captivity.

They measure between 41 and 49cm (16 and 19in) long. Wingspan measures between 65 and 75cm (26 and 30in). The average weight is between 428 and 693g (0.94 and 1.5lb).

Lifespan

A Mandarin duck lives for 6-7 years in the wild in captivity some have been recorded living for up to 10 years.

Diet

Mandarin ducks are omnivores. Their diet consists of seeds, grains, snails, insects, crabs, frogs, small fish, rice, water plants, acorns and molluscs.

Feeding can take place either through dabbling or on land.

Habitat

Asia is the native home of the mandarin duck. Here they can be found throughout China, Japan, Korea and Russia. Wild birds have also been spotted in India and Hong Kong. Populations migrate throughout the year for winter and for breeding.

Introduced populations of this species exist in the United Kingdom and Germany. As well as in North Carolina and California in the USA.

Mandarin ducks make their home near bodies of water such as streams, marshes, swamps, lakes and rivers which are located within forested areas. They may winter in lagoons and estuaries which are salt water.

Reproduction

Breeding takes place beginning in April. Pairs form for several breeding seasons. Males use their colourful plumage along with a display of shaking and mock-drinking.

Mandarin duckFollowing a successful mating the female will lead the male on the hunt for a nest. This will be made in a tree hollow which is lined with down feathers.

Here the female deposits nine to twelve oval shaped eggs. She has the sole responsibility for incubating the eggs for the 28 to 30-day incubation period. Hatchlings are coloured olive on top with yellow on bottom.

Following hatching the female moves to the ground. Here she will call and the chicks will jump out of the hollow to the ground. Once they land on the floor they will walk to a feeding ground.

40 to 45 days after hatching the young mandarin ducks fledge and will move on to a new flock. They breed for the first time at 1 year old.

Behaviour

Mandarin ducks gather in flocks.

Predators of the mandarin duck can include, snakes, eagles, otters, racoon dogs, minks and polecats. They do not taste good so are not hunted for food. Logging is the largest threat to their survival.

Quick Facts

Due to mandarin ducks forming life-long pairs they are viewed as a symbol of marital fidelity in Asia. Sometimes a pair is given to a couple as wedding gift.

Their scientific name Aix galericulata is derived from the ancient greek words for an unknown diving word and wig.

Photo Credits

Top – By su neko (flickr.com) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Bottom – By Ltshears (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons