Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata)

Mandarin Duck

[order] ANSERIFORMES | [family] Anatidae | [latin] Aix galericulata | [authority] Linnaeus, 1758 | [UK] Mandarin Duck | [FR] Canard mandarin | [DE] Mandarinente | [ES] Pato Mandarin | [NL] Mandarijneend


Monotypic species


Aix is a genus that contains two species of ducks: the Wood Duck (Aix sponsa), and the Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata). The genus belongs to the family Anatidae in the waterfowl order Anseriformes. They were formerly placed in the “perching ducks”, a paraphyletic group somewhat intermediate between shelducks and dabbling ducks, and it is not quite clear whether they should be placed in the Anatinae (dabbling duck) or Tadorninae (shelduck) subfamily. The two species are generally considered to be very attractive, particularly the multi-coloured drakes. Wood Ducks are a North American species, occurring mainly in the eastern half of the United States, and from southern Canada to northern Mexico. Mandarin Ducks are an Asian species mainly in Japan and China, but there is an important feral population in the United Kingdom. Both species migrate from the northern parts of their respective ranges to winter in the south of the range. They inhabit quiet wooded streams and ponds. The genus shows marked sexual dimorphism (differences between the sexes), with the females being smaller and less colorful.

Physical charateristics

In full plumage, the male has a pair of “sail” feathers that are raised vertically above the back, a crest of orange and cream feathers, and a broad white eye-stripe that is bounded above and below by darker feathers. The female is duller in color and has an overall grey appearance marked by a curving white stripe behind the eye and a series of white blotches on the underparts. In flight, both sexes display a bluish-green iridescent speculum.

Listen to the sound of Mandarin Duck

[audio: Duck.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 65 cm wingspan max.: 75 cm
size min.: 41 cm size max.: 49 cm
incubation min.: 28 days incubation max.: 30 days
fledging min.: 40 days fledging max.: 30 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 9  
      eggs max.: 12  


Eurasia : East


In contrast with nearly all other Palearctic Anatidae, essentially belongs to middle-latitude temperate broad-leaf forest zone, and its standing or slow-flowing fresh waters, fringed by dense growth of trees and shrubspreferably those overhanging to provide cover down to water, often with some reed, sedge, or other emergent vegetation. Primarily in lowland, but occupies valleys and forested uplands to 1500 m, using small ponds as well as lakes and rivers with wooded islets. Nests in hollow trees, stumps, fallen logs and roots. Needs ready access to arboreal or shrub cover for concealment, and infrequently resorts to open ground or waters, especially marine, although visiting ricefields and cornfields accessible from nearby cover. Although normally secretive, adapts readily to close human presence when undisturbed. Able to rise steeply and fast out of confined spaces, and uses powers of flight freely, mostly at fairly low level. Not much given to movement over land except at water?s edge. Deforestation and disturbance over much of natural range give special value to establishment of feral colonies in England.


Mandarin courtship display is very impressive and includes mock-drinking and shaking. Pairs are formed at the beginning of the winter and may continue for many seasons. Although the female chooses the exact nesting site, the male accompanies the female on nest searches. Nest are alway in a hole in a tree and can be up to thirty feet from the ground. In preparation for egg laying, the female lines the nest is with down. Clutch sizes range from nine to twelve white oval eggs that are laid at daily intervals. Incubation is solely performed by the female and last between 28 and 30 days. When all the eggs are hatched (they hatch within a few hours of each other), the mother calls to the chicks from the ground. Each chick then crawls out of the hole and launches itself into a free fall. Amazingly, all the chicks land unhurt and are en route to the nearest feeding ground. Once the chicks are able to fly (after 40-45 days), they leave to join a new flock.

Feeding habits

Omnivorous; mainly vegetable, especially seeds and nuts (acorns particularly important), with some animal at times, especially land snails and insects. Nocturnal and daytime feeder, on land and in water; mainly from surface, dabbling, up-ending, and head-dipping, but rarely diving.

Video Mandarin Duck


copyright: youtube


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Natural range: eastern Palearctic (south-east Russia, north-east China, and Japan). Feral and semi-feral breeding occurs in Europe.
Established 20th century as breeding resident through escapes and deliberate releases (mainly south-east England, also locally elsewhere England and Perth, Scotland). Apparent more recent extension of range perhaps due to underrecording. Small feral (returned to wild) populations reported from other European countries, but apparently in most cases not yet established
Mandarin Duck status Least Concern


Asian population essentially migratory, wintering at lower latitudes in eastern China. However, Japanese and British feral birds mostly sedentary. Wild birds have occurred in NE India, Burma and Hong Kong and escapes throughout Europe

Distribution map

Mandarin Duck distribution range map


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