Thursday, 14 May 2015

Day 192 - Marvellous Mystical Mandarins

Hey everyone day 192 and today I've got a very special water bird that we saw at the Washington Wetland Centre, so technically it wasn't actually in its natural environment but it's so pretty I wanted to research it anyway. So I hope you like what I found out:
    Male Madarin Duck (Aix Galericulata)
  • Males are easily recognisable as they have such an amazingly pretty and elaborate plumage! They have long bright orange feathers at the sides of their faces and also have orange streamers or "sails" on their backs, and deep purpley-blue feathers alongside black, white and brown ones. It is a favourite of artists and is often the subject of oriental style art.  The females look like a dulled down (sepia!) version.
  • Mandarin ducks aren`t native to the UK, they descended from captive-bred birds imported into the UK in the mid 18th Century, but it wasn't until they then either escaped or were released into the wild that they started breeding in this country. They can still be found in the wild in some parts of the UK though and also in China, Japan, Korea and Russia.
Male and female Mandarin.
  • However they have suffered a serious decline due to the destruction of their natural habitat (forests) and it is estimated there are now only around 1000 breeding pairs across China and Russia.  The BTO have them listed as having 2300 breeding pairs in the UK but this was in 1988, I also found the figure 8000 in the UK on the Living with Birds website and it also says that there are actually more of them around the world than previously thought.  If anyone knows a recent up to date figure please send me a comment! 
  • They are a shy little duck though so maybe this will explain why they aren't well recorded (maybe they`re keeping themselves hidden?!)
  • In the UK they are considered a protected duck and many wetland centres will work hard to keep numbers up.  We love Washington Wetland because the birds are so well looked after there and they really seem as if they are in their natural environment.
Showing off in the sun....
  • However some have been spotted around and about the UK, some near to us here in North Yorkshire just last month at Bolton Abbey, and others at Wharfe Valley.  We will have to go and explore!
  • They prefer small wooded ponds rather than large open lakes.
  • They are extremely agile fliers, and can sometimes be seen perched in a tree! That I've gotta see! (a duck in a tree!)
  • They even lay their eggs in trunks or holes in trees. Once hatched, the babies jump out of the nest and because they are so light and fluffy they just float down to the ground and their mother then takes them over to the water.
  • They are not one of the types of duck that are eaten due them apparently tasting awful! (lucky for them!)
  • In ancient China they were considered a fertility symbol and a pair of Mandarins would be given to a bride on her wedding day.
...and resting in the reeds.
  • However Mandarins, like many ducks but unlike many other types of birds, only pair up for breeding, and once this is over and done with, they will seek out another mate.
  • The Mandarin has a genetic chromasome anomaly which means they are unable to cross-breed or produce a hybrid and so makes it impossible for them to produce offspring with another type of duck. 
  • They are about 45cm in length and have a wingspan of 71cm. Males weigh 630g and females 520g.
  • They like to eat plant material, invertebrates, snails etc.
  • Females don`t quack, but they do make a clucking sort of a noise if they see danger.
  • The maximum recorded age of a Mandarin is 10 years, 4 months and 25 days.
Well that`s about it for this pretty little duck.  If you want to find out more check out these websites:


  1. I love these ducks, they are just beautiful! Lovely photos Zach. - Tasha

  2. another great post about one of my favourite birds. I posted a picture of one on facebook and a friend from Keswick said she had seen one on Grizedale Tarn and wondered what it was!