Back in 2018, a rainbow-colored magical duck appeared in Central Park in New York City, and nobody knew where it came from.
It has inspired Bette Midler to write a children’s book about the event called “The tale of the Mandarin Duck.”
That’s why in this post, you can discover all about these fascinating creatures in the ultimate list of Mandarin duck facts, one of the most beautiful birds in the world!
1. It’s native to Asia
As you might have expected with a name as “Mandarin Duck,” these animals are native to Asia. They aren’t, however, native to just China as their name implies.
This type of perching duck used to be very common all across East Asia but their captivating beauty has resulted in massive export. In combination with habitat loss, this has resulted in a serious decline in population in Eastern Russia and China with just 1,000 pairs living in both countries.
The population in Japan is estimated to be around 5,000 pairs and is relatively stable and a much smaller population also exists in Korea.
2. Its scientific name is a combination of Ancient Greek and Latin
The scientific name of these animals is “Aix galericulata.” The “Aix” refers to the Ancient Greek word that was used by Aristotle to describe an unknown species of diving birds. The “galericulata” is a word in Latin that was derived from “Galerum” which means cap, and literally means “wig.”
This means that the scientific name of the Mandarin duck literally translates to “Diving bird that wears a wig.”
3. Males are very colorful, females are rather dull
The creatures are medium-sized birds, and the size of the male and female doesn’t differ too much. They have a length of anywhere between 41 and 49 centimeters (16 and 19 inches) and a wingspan of between 65 and 75 centimeters (26 and 30 inches).
What makes it very easy to differentiate males and females is their color pattern. The males are very colorful and have a bright red bill, while the female is rather dull looking with a brownish-grey color scheme.
4. There’s one period in the year that both sexes look quite similar
One of the most fascinating Mandarin duck facts is that the males don’t always look this colorful all year round. That’s because they molt after the mating season, which simply means that they lose their colorful plumage to be replaced with new feathers.
During this period, the male Mandarin duck looks strikingly similar to the female, and can only be recognized through its bright red bill.
5. It’s very similar to a popular North American duck species
Did you notice that the female Mandarin duck looks remarkably similar to the common North American wood duck?
That’s because Mandarin ducks and North American wood ducks are basically relatives! These two duck species are the only members of the genus Aix.
The male wood duck is also very colorful compared to the females.
6. Mandarin ducks are migratory
Another one of those interesting Mandarin duck facts is that these birds breed in a different area than where they actually live in their native environment in Asia, meaning they are migratory.
During the harsh winter months, they overwinter in the lowlands of Eastern China and in southern Japan, where the temperatures are milder.
7. There are as many Mandarin Ducks in the UK as in Asia
These animals are living all around the world now as they have been exported to various zoos and nature parks all across the globe.
They have also been introduced in the wild and large numbers of feral populations can now be found all across Europe, in the United Kingdom, and some smaller isolated populations in the United States.
With just a few 1,000 Mandarin ducks living in the wild in Russia, Japan, and Korea, and about 5,000 in China, it means that the feral population in the UK is about the same as that in their native environment!
8. They aren’t considered an endangered species
The total population of Mandarin Ducks all across the world is estimated to be around 65,000 individuals. This includes all the feral populations established in various regions in the world, as well as the ones living in zoos and nature parks.
One of the most amazing Mandarin duck facts is that they aren’t considered to be an endangered species, even though they face considerable difficulties in their native environment, most importantly habitat loss because of logging.
The main reason for this status is their introduction in various parts of Europe which has increased their population tremendously!
9. They make their nest in cavities in trees
The natural habitat of Mandarin ducks consists of dense forests surrounding lakes, marches, or ponds. They don’t prefer highlands and like to breed in low-lying areas, even though they may be found in valleys at altitudes of up to 1,500 meters (4,900 feet).
Females lay their eggs in a nest built in cavities of trees. They can lay 9 to 12 eggs at once, usually in April or May. The female is the only one incubating the eggs and the male usually left the nest before they hatch.
The ducklings don’t stay in the nest for too long as the mother pushes them out of the tree and leads them to the nearby body of water!
10. Mandarin ducks are true omnivores
So what do Mandarin ducks eat?
Well, that’s fairly simple, just about everything they can!
In the summer and spring, they mostly feed on seeds and plants and also like chewing on beech mast. In the winter, when these ingredients are hard to come by, they also eat insects, snails, mollusks, frogs, fish, and even small snakes!
It’s fair to conclude that they aren’t picky at all when it comes to food!
11. They have to fear multiple predators
The life of the Mandarin duck is full of danger as they constantly have to watch their back for predators who want to attack them.
The list of animals that they can fall prey to includes mink, raccoon dogs, otters, polecats, Eurasian eagle owls, and grass snakes.
On top of that, they also have to fear hunters who might not recognize the ducks and shoot them unintentionally as they are flying by.
12. These ducks don’t taste good
The fact that these animals still exist in their native environment is for the simple fact that their meat doesn’t taste good. It’s assumed that this is caused by the fact that they eat a lot of dirty things, resulting in their meat tasting horrible.
Tasting awful is a huge benefit, especially for the Mandarin duck!
13. They are the ultimate symbol for a good marriage in China
A Chinese proverb described two lovers as “Two mandarin ducks playing in the water.” This is because these animals are considered to be the ultimate symbol of fidelity.
One of the most amazing Mandarin duck facts is that couples are believed to be lifelong partners in China. Therefore, they have been used extensively in Chinese art, dating back numerous centuries!
14. Mandarin ducks are wedding presents in Korea
In Korea, they take it a step further as they share a similar belief that Mandarin duck pairs form lifelong bonds. A Korean marriage always includes so-called “wedding ducks,” Mandarin ducks carved out of wood.
These are then presented to the married couple as a token of trust and fidelity and to convey the message of wishing the couple a happy marriage!
15. Are Mandarin ducks really monogamous?
The big question remains, are Mandarin ducks really monogamous?
Some sources state that the commitment between the pairs might stem from the mating rituals performed by these animals, perch close together on a branch of a tree while it’s raining, and the fact that they defend each other from intruders.
In reality, they might be monogamous for many years, but this doesn’t mean that they are exclusively monogamous. Unfortunately, some cases of polygamy have been observed, meaning the wedding present’s meaning might not be as good as it initially seemed!
Let’s just go with it though, and assume that 99.99% of Mandarin ducks are 100% monogamous.
How adorable, isn’t it?