In the wild, the Mandarin Duck breeds 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. 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.
Male – The male Mandarin duck has a red beak, large white eye-stripe, reddish face and whiskers. A purple breast with two vertical white bars, ruddy flanks, two orange sails at the back, and yellow legs and feet.
Female – The female is grey/brown with a thin white eye-stripe which circles the eye, grey beak, and dark yellow legs.
Eclipse – The male in eclipse plumage is similar to the female but a reddish beak and visible blue wing feathers.
Size: – Typical Adult is 16-19 inches.
Food: – Plants, seeds, nuts, snails, insects, fish, and feeds in rice paddies in the east.
Habitat: – Densely wooded areas near shallow lakes, marshes or ponds. Found in far east including Russia, China, and Japan. Also small numbers can be found in the west such as the UK.
Breeding Season: – April and May in UK.
Eggs: – 9 to 12 (creamy white color) incubated by female only.
Notes: – The Mandarin duck is a medium-sized perching duck and is probably one of the most striking and decorative ducks along with its close relative, the American Wood Duck. The name ‘Mandarin’ was given to this duck because of its brilliantly decorative plumage which resembled the colorful Chinese Mandarin dress. They nest in tree cavities and although the male leaves the female to incubate the eggs he returns to help look after the ducklings.
The different types of wild ducks can be grouped into puddle, aka “dabbling” and diving ducks. The dabblers mostly feed in smaller bodies of shallow water or along shorelines, where they are able to tip their bodies forward to reach their food on the bottom. There are divers who feed in deeper water where they dive and pursue their quarry. Some of these birds, the Harlequin Duck for example, actually dives to the bottom of fast-flowing waters and feeds on life forms attached to rocks.