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Mandarin duck




The mandarin duck is a perching duck species native to the East Palearctic. It is
medium-sized, at 41–49 cm long with a 65–75 cm wingspan. It is closely related to the
North American wood duck, the only other member of the genus Aix. 'Aix' is an
Ancient Greek word which was used by Aristotle to refer to an unknown diving bird,
and 'galericulata' is the Latin for a wig, derived from galerum, a cap or bonnet.
The adult male has a red bill, large white crescent above the eye and reddish face and
"whiskers". The male's breast is purple with two vertical white bars, and the flanks
ruddy, and he has two orange "sails" at the back (large feathers that stick up like boat
sails). The female is similar to the female wood duck, with a white eye-ring and stripe
running back from the eye, but is paler below, has a small white flank stripe, and a
pale tip to its bill.
Both the males and females have crests, but the purple crest is more pronounced on
the male.
Like many other species of ducks, the male undergoes a moult after the mating season
into eclipse plumage. When in eclipse plumage, the male looks similar to the female,
but can be told apart by its bright yellow-orange or red beak, lack of any crest, and a
less-pronounced eye-stripe.


Mandarin ducklings are almost identical in appearance to wood ducklings, and very
similar to mallard ducklings. The ducklings can be distinguished from mallard
ducklings because the eye-stripe of mandarin ducklings (and wood ducklings) stops
at the eye, while in mallard ducklings it reaches all the way to the bill.
The species was once widespread in East Asia, but large-scale exports and the
destruction of its forest habitat have reduced populations in eastern Russia and in
China to below 1,000 pairs in each country; Japan, however, is thought to still hold
some 5,000 pairs. The Asian populations are migratory, overwintering in lowland
eastern China and southern Japan.
Specimens frequently escape from collections, and in the 20th century, a large, feral
population was established in Great Britain; more recently, small numbers have bred
in Ireland, concentrated in the parks of Dublin. Now, about 7,000 are in Britain with
other populations on the European continent, the largest of which is in the region of
Berlin. Isolated populations exist in the United States. The town of Black Mountain,
North Carolina, has a limited population,[6] and a free-flying feral population of
several hundred mandarins exist in Sonoma County, California. This population is
the result of several ducks escaping from captivity, then reproducing in the wild.[3]
In 2018, a single bird, dubbed Mandarin Patinkin, was seen in New York City's
Central Park.


The habitats it prefers in its breeding range are the dense, shrubby forested edges of
rivers and lakes. It mostly occurs in low-lying areas, but it may breed in valleys at
altitudes of up to 1,500 m. In winter, it additionally occurs in marshes, flooded fields,
and open rivers. While it prefers fresh water, it may also be seen wintering in coastal
lagoons and estuaries. In its introduced European range, it lives in more open habitat
than in its native range, around the edges lakes, water meadows, and cultivated areas
with woods nearby.
Compared to other ducks, mandarins are shy birds, preferring to seek cover under
trees such as overhanging willows, and form smaller flocks, but may become bolder
as a result of becoming tame from frequent interaction with humans.
In the wild, mandarin ducks breed in densely wooded areas near shallow lakes,
marshes or ponds. They nest in cavities in trees close to water and during the spring.
A single clutch of nine to twelve eggs is laid in April or May. Although the male may
defend the brooding female and his eggs during incubation, he himself does not
incubate the eggs and leaves before they hatch. Shortly after the ducklings hatch,
their mother flies to the ground and coaxes the ducklings to leap from the nest. After
all of the ducklings are out of the tree, they will follow their mother to a nearby body
of water.


Mandarins feed by dabbling or walking on land. They mainly eat plants and seeds,
especially beech mast. The species will also add snails, insects and small fish to its
diet. The diet of mandarin ducks changes seasonally; in the fall and winter, they
mostly eat acorns and grains. In the spring, they mostly eat insects, snails, fish and
aquatic plants. In the summer, they eat dew worms, small fish, frogs, mollusks, and
small snakes. They feed mainly near dawn or dusk, perching in trees or on the
ground during the day.
Predation of the mandarin duck varies between different parts of its range. Mink,
raccoon dogs, otters, polecats, Eurasian eagle-owls, and grass snakes are all predators
of the mandarin duck. The greatest threat to the mandarin duck is habitat loss due to
loggers. Hunters are also a threat to the mandarin duck, because often they are unable
to recognize the mandarin in flight and as a result, many are shot by accident.
Mandarin ducks are not hunted for food, but are still poached because their extreme
beauty is prized.
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