The Mandarin Duck
The Mandarin Duck is a medium-sized duck, or the perching variety. It's nearest relatives are the North American Wood Ducks. It's average dimensions are - 41–49 cm long with a 65–75 cm wingspan.
A striking and unmistakable bird, the adult male mandarin duck has a red bill, large white crescent above the eye and reddish face and "whiskers". A purple breast with two vertical white bars, ruddy flanks, and two orange "sails" at the back, make the male very impressive. The female mandarin duck however, is similar to 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. The Mandarin ducklings are almost identical in look to Wood ducklings, and appear 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.
There are various mutations of the Mandarin Duck found in captivity. The most common is the white Mandarin Duck. Although the origin of this mutation is unknown, it is presumed that the constant pairing of related birds and selective breeding led to recessive gene combinations leading to genetic conditions including albinism
Distribution and habitat
The species was once widespread in eastern 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
Specimens frequently escape from collections, and in the 20th century a feral population numbering about 1,000 pairs was established in Great Britan more recently small numbers have bred in Ireland. Black Mountain, North Carolina also has a limited population. There is also a free-flying feral population of several hundred mandarins in Sonoma County, California. This population is the result of several mandarin ducks escaping from captivity, then going on to reproduce in the wild.
Behaviour and ecology
Unlike other species of ducks, most Mandarin drakes reunite with the hens they mated with along with their offsprings after the eggs have hatched and even share scout duties in watching the ducklings closely. However, even with both parents securing the Mandarins may form small flocks in winter.
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, the females lay their eggs in the tree's cavity after mating. The males take no part in the incubation, simply leaving the female to secure the eggs on her own. However, unlike other species of ducks, the male does not completely abandon the female, leaving only temporarily until the ducklings have hatched. 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 where they would usually encounter the father, who will rejoin the family and protect the ducklings with the mother.[ If the father isn't found then it is likely that he may have deceased during his temporary leave. The Asian populations are migratory, overwintering in lowland eastern China and southern Japan.
Food and feeding
Mandarins feed by dabbling or walking on land. They mainly eat plants and seeds. The species will also add snails, insects and small fish to its diet They feed mainly near dawn or dusk, perching in trees or on the ground during the day.