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Mandarin duck

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Mandarin duck
Male mandarin duck.jpg
Scientific Classification
Binomial Name

Aix galericulata

Female mandarin duck.jpg
Top: Mandarin Drake; Above: Female Mandarin Duck

The Mandarin Duck is a uniquely colored duck. It originated in China and is a symbol in Chinese lore. The mandarin duck is on the endangered species list. It is classified as a perching duck and is closely related to the Wood Duck. The mandarin ducks in Asia are migratory and will go to eastern China or Southern Japan fo the winter. People can buy and keep Mandarin Ducks as pets and they are quite popular in zoos. The Mandarin Duck is a very unique animal.

Body Design

The colorful mandarin drake

Male Mandarin Ducks are one the most beautifully colored birds when in full plumage. The female Mandarin duck, on the other hand, is less colorful. Her plumage is mostly composed of grays and whites, to browns and greenish browns. A distinguishing characteristic between the male and the female is that the male has a red-orange bill. On the drake's head, there is a crest that extends down to its neck with chestnut brown cheeks. This crest is composed of a combination of blue and green iridescent feathers. Iridescent feathers are a unique thing, they are very flashy and eye appealing- especially when attracting a mate. [2] Iridescent means: "displaying a spectrum of colors that shimmer and change due to interference and scattering as the observer's position changes". [3] On the maroon colored breast, the mandarin drake has black and white vertical stripes slightly to the side. The underside of the drake is white and gold. Its flanks are black. During molting the male will lose its colorful array of feathers and they will be replaced with colors much like the females.

The Mandarin Duck has a streamline body made for swimming. Mandarin ducks can also fly. They have a 16 inch wingspan. It has webbed feet set farther back on their body to provide more power when swimming but makes them clumsy when walking on land. This also gives the duck their characteristic waddle. Also, the Mandarin Duck has water-proof feathers that keep it warm and dry when swimming.

There are four variation of the duck color (white, blonde, apricot, and black). Females are duller in color because many of the genes for color are sex-linked and the male has two X chromosomes where the coloration genes are found. [2] These ducks are usually kept in zoos and not many survive in the wild because of their bright coloration.

Life Cycle

Mandarin Duckling

The life cycle of the Mandarin Duck is much like the cycle of a normal duck. They have sexual reproduction and produce an amniotic egg. Mandarin ducks breed in woodland areas. They make their nests in tree holes filled with down as opposed to the classic nest that is made from twigs and other various objects. In the tree hole, she will lay the eggs and incubate them until they hatch. Once hatched, the mother mandarin duck will encourage the chicks to "fly", or leap from the nest in the tree hole. She will then escort them to water.

Female mandarin ducks will reach sexual maturity at one year old. Mandarin Ducks lay 9-12 eggs. They begin laying at the end of March and will lay until June. The female is the one that will incubate the eggs and take care of the hatched chicks. The eggs are incubated for 28 to 30 days. Mandarin Ducks cannot interbreed due to a different number of chromosomes[3]


Mandarin Ducks are native to China. Only 20,000 are believed to live there. These ducks live near woodlands, lakes, marshes and ponds. Their diet includes water plants, rice and other grains. They either feed by dabbling (while swimming, ducking or diving underwater to eat particles of food) or walking on land and foraging. [4]


The following video is of a mother mandarin duck leading her ducklings from their nest to the water.