Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata)


Class: Aves
Order: Anseriformes
Family:    Anatidae
Size:    Length: 16 to 19 inches (41 to 46 cm) Wingspan: 27 to 29 inches (68 to 73 cm)
Weight: 18 to 22 ounces (510 to 624 g)
Diet: Plant material, nuts, grain, fruit and small fish, as well as some insects
Distribution: Asia, Britain and California
Young:  9 to 12 chicks, once a year
Animal Predators:  Foxes, hawks, crows, and domestic cats and dogs
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Young: Duckling  Male: Drake  Female: Hen   Group:  Brace or Flock
Lifespan: Up to six years in the wild and up to 12 in captivity



·     The mandarin duck is a symbol of happiness and marital fidelity in China and Japan, due to its monogamous nature.

·     There are more references to mandarins in Oriental art and literature than any other bird.

·     They are not hunted for food because they have an unpleasant flavour.



Many people consider male mandarins among the world’s most beautiful ducks. As with many other species of birds, the male is flashy, with a bushy crest on his head and an enlarged, orange wing feather, so that he can attract females. Females are plain, so that they will not be easily spotted by predators. These ducks have strong, sharp claws and can climb up and down tree trunks to their nests with ease. Mandarins are closely related to the North American wood duck—these two ducks are the only members of the Aix genus. Although the females of the two species look so much alike that even experts have a hard time telling them apart, the males are quite different, although both are visually stunning.



Mandarin ducks are originally from China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and eastern Siberia. They live in forested areas near a water source such as a pond, marsh or stream. There are wild mandarins living in Britain, which evolved from released captives that first arrived there in the 1700s. There is also a wild population in California, where they mix (but do not interbreed) with the area’s native wood ducks. The California population is derived from escaped captives. Mandarins living in the northern reaches of their habitat fly south for the winter. In milder areas, the ducks stay year-round.


Feeding Habits

Mandarins eat mostly plant material, nuts, grain and fruit, as well as some insects. They also search for small fish in streams and lakes at dusk. 



The plumage of the males becomes extremely colourful during mating season in order to win the attentions of a female. The males perform elaborate courtship displays, competing with other males for the attentions of the females. When a female is interested in a particular male, she swims close to him and they groom each other’s feathers while swimming. The pair forms a life-long bond. If either of the mates dies, the one left behind will not accept a new mate. Once a couple has formed a bond, they search together for a nesting site, such as a tree cavity. The female chooses a spot 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 m) above the ground and lines the nest with down. The female incubates the eggs for a month, and the male brings food back to the nest for her. The eggs all hatch within hours of each other and within several days of their birth, the ducklings are able to leap to the ground and follow their parents while they forage for food. The ducklings can climb back up into the nest by using their sharp claws. By the time they are two months of age, the ducklings are able to fly and soon after, leave the nest to be on their own. They are capable of mating by the age of one, but usually wait until they are two.



These shy birds live in small flocks by the edge of a river or a lake. 



The biggest threat to mandarin ducks is the loss of habitat. The Tung Ling forest, which was home to many mandarins, was torn down for human settlement in 1911. By 1928, the mandarin had few areas left to call home and the Asian population has now dwindled to less than 20,000 ducks. Britain now has a larger population of mandarins than any other country, with approximately 10,000 individuals.



Mandarin Duck Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US

Harrison, C. and Greensmith, A. (1993). Birds of the World. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited