Scientific name: Aix galericulata
Status: Resident introduced population
Breeding birds: 2,300 pairs
Wintering birds: 7,000 birds
Conservation status: Introduced
Length: 41 – 49 cm
Wingspan: 68 – 74 cm
Weight: 430 – 690 g
In breeding plumage adult male mandarin ducks have a white lower breast, belly and undertail coverts. Their flanks are pale orange with wavy black and white lines, and their upper breast is maroon with three black and two white vertical stripes each side. The upperparts are dark olive-brown.
They have pale upperwing coverts and a glossy green-blue thickly bordered with white, and iridescent blue scapulars. Their outer tertials are glossed with blue and they have glossy green primaries with white fringes.
Their tails are brown glossed with green and they have a pair of characteristic elongated tertial feathers or ‘sails’ on each side of their back, which are chestnut-orange with white edges on the top and black underneath.
Mandarin ducks have cream coloured cheeks, with long pointed chestnut-orange whisker-like feathers on the front and sides of their head. They have a crest of black feathers along the head and crown which are glossed green-blue at the front, purplish-red in the centre, and purplish-blue at the back.
They have a red bill with a pale pink nail, dark brown eyes with a pale yellow outer ring, and orange legs and feet.
Female mandarin ducks have white underparts, and olive-brown upperparts. Their breast and flanks are pale buff mottled with brown and they lack the sails that the male has. They have grey heads with a thin white line around the eye that extends to the neck, and a white line around the bill and under the chin. Her crest is less pronounced than the male.
They have a pink bill with a pale tip, their eyes are dark brown, and their legs and feet are dull yellow.
In eclipse plumage males look similar to female mandarin ducks but has a bright orange or red beak, no crest, and a less-pronounced eye stripe.
Juvenile mandarin ducks are similar to females but have streaks on their breast and flanks and dark spots on the belly.
Mandarin ducks breed in April and May in densely wooded areas near water. They make their nests in cavities in trees lined with down feathers.
Mandarin ducks lay 9-12 white eggs which are incubated by the female alone for 28-30 days. The male may defend the nest during the incubation period, but leaves before the chicks hatch. Just after hatching they will jump out of the nest and follow their mother to nearby water.
They fledge at 40-45 days when and reach sexual maturity at 1 year.
Mandarin ducks have a varied diet and will eat acorns, grains, seeds, aquatic plants, small fish, and snails. In the summer they will also eat frogs, molluscs, and small snakes.
Where to see them
Mandarin ducks can be seen in the UK all year round. They mainly live in south, central and eastern England, near lakes with overhanging vegetation. They can also be seen in Wales, northern England, and Scotland.
Did you know?
The mandarin duck was first imported to Britain in the mid-18 century, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that escapees started breeding. They are one of the few introduced species not to cause any ecological problems, as their favoured habitats are not used by the UK’s native wildfowl.