Mandarin Duck

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Common Name: Mandarin Duck
Scientific Name: Aix galericulata

Size: 16.1- 19.3 inches (41-49 cm); Wingspan: 25.6-29.5 inches (65-75 cm)

Habitat: Asia; eastern Asia, eastern Russia and in China and Japan. Some specimens frequently escape from collections, and in the 20th century a large feral population was established in Great Britain and smaller populations on the European continent. Isolated populations exist in the United States. The town of Black Mountain, North Carolina has a limited population and there is a free-flying feral population of several hundred mandarins in Sonoma County, California.

They breed in densely wooded areas near shallow lakes, marshes or ponds.

Status: Least Concern. Global population: 65,000-66,000 individuals. The overall trend is decreasing, although some populations may be stable. They were 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. There are now about 7,000 in Britain (mostly Dublin, Ireland), and other populations on the European continent, the largest in the region of Berlin.

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, however they are still poached because their extreme beauty is prized.

Diet: Plants and seeds, especially beechmast. They will also add snails, insects and small fish to their 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.

Nesting: Males have a red bill, large white crescent above the eye and reddish brown face and jowl "whiskers". The breast is purple with two vertical white bars, and the flanks ruddy, with two orange "sails" at the back.

The female is similar to the female Wood Duck, with a white eye-ring and stripe running back from the eye, but it 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.

Cool Facts: Mandarin Ducks are referred to by the Chinese as Yuan-yang (鴛鴦), where yuan (鴛) and yang (鴦) respectively stand for male and female Mandarin Ducks.

In traditional Chinese culture, Mandarin Ducks are believed to be lifelong couples, unlike other species of ducks. Hence they are regarded as a symbol of conjugal affection and fidelity, and are frequently featured in Chinese art.

A Chinese proverb for loving couples uses the Mandarin Duck as a metaphor: "Two mandarin ducks playing in water" (鴛鴦戲水). The Mandarin Duck symbol is also used in Chinese weddings because in traditional Chinese lore, they symbolize wedded bliss and fidelity.

Pairs of Mandarin ducks called wedding ducks are often given as wedding gifts and play a significant role in Korean marriage.

Because the male and female plumages of the Mandarin Duck are so unalike, yuan-yang is frequently used colloquially in Cantonese to mean an "odd couple" or "unlikely pair" – a mixture of two different types of the same category. For example, the yuan-yang beverage and yuan-yang fried rice.

Found in Songbird Remix Waterfowl Volume I: Dabbling Ducks

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