Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mandarin Duck

Now this is a duck that catches the eye.  I remember the first time I saw it about 20 years ago at La Mirada Regional Park.   I couldn't believe my eyes.  It was gorgeous, and the sail-like feathers rising out of its wings were so unusual.   Afterward, I kept hoping to see another at every park with a lake I visited.  I saw a female a few years ago, but no male.  Finally, I saw another male Mandarin Duck recently when I was out for a walk. 

Mandarin Ducks are perching ducks native to Siberia, China, and Japan.  However, in the United States, they are an exotic species.  Most Mandarin Ducks in the United States are thought to be escapees or the descendants of escapees.   There is a small feral population of Mandarin Ducks in California.  Mandarin Ducks are a close relative of the Wood Duck which is a native species.  Mandarin Ducks hybridize with another our native Wood Duck who is also a perching duck and rather flashy itself. 

Female Mandarin Duck at Huntington Central Park near Huntington Lake.

The Male Mandarin is a pretty flashy fellow, and he does attract females from both the Mandarin Duck species and from the Wood Duck.  However, due to the extra chromosomes, Mandarins cannot successfully produce hybrid offspring like other ducks.  Breeders say they may mate and produce eggs, but they do not hatch.  (I am still looking for back up on the lack of offspring in literature.)  He is a faithful fellow though, sticking around for several seasons with the same female and taking part in guarding the nest.  For these reasons Mandarins are considered a symbol of faithfulness in Asia.

Male Mandarin Duck.  Check out those interesting sail-like feathers.

The female Mandarin Duck is more plain.  She is very similar in appearance to the female Wood Duck.  The female Mandarin has what look like eye glasses.  She has a thin circle around the eye and a line from the circle toward the back of her head.  The female Wood Duck's eye is in a white tear drop.  Check out my post Wood Duck or Mandarin Duck? for more details.

Female Mandarin at Huntington Central Park

Mandarin Ducks eat seeds, grain, acorns, insects, mollusks including snails, fish, and water plants.    They prefer areas with water such as streams, ponds, and marshes that are near forested or woody areas. 

Male Mandarin from behind.

Mandarin Ducks nest in holes in trees and will utilize nest boxes like the Wood Duck.  Like the Wood Duck, the Mandarin Duck's ducklings jump down from the nest which can be higher than 25 feet in the air.  The mother jumps down first and calls them.  The ducklings jump down to follow her

Male Mandarin seems to have bonded with female Wood Duck at park in Orange County, CA

Besides the United States, feral populations of Mandarin Ducks exist in England and Scotland.   In Orange County, Mandarin Ducks appear at different rivers, streams, ponds, and lakes sporadically.  It is impossible to predict where they may show up, but places like Huntington Central Park, Irvine Regional Park, Mile Square Park, Craig Regional Park, the Santa Ana River, San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary are possibilities and other locations are possible.  

Male Mandarin and female Wood Duck seemingly a couple.

So if you are out birding in Orange County and see a Mandarin Duck, count yourself lucky.  It doesn't happen every day.

Male Mandarin Duck                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                    Male Wood Duck

Female Mandarin Duck                                                              

                                                               Female Wood Duck   

OC Birder Girl Links

Wood Duck--Aix sponsa

External Links and Resources

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