Sunday, August 17, 2014

Mandarin Duck (Atix galericulata)

(40 cm.) Male: unmistakable Female: brownish-grey plumage; white eye-ring/eye-line.

The Mandarin duck is a bird of such extraordinary beauty that it must be considered as one of the most beautiful animals in the world. The male of the species is so elaborately adorned that a text description would fail to do the bird justice. Needless to say, this bird is absolutely gorgeous and its beauty makes it absolutely unmistakable. The female, although a much less elaborate creature than the male, is also very attractive. The Mandarin Duck is a member of the large family of ducks, geese and swans, “Anatidae.”

Unfortunately, this extremely attractive bird is now one the rarest wild birds in China. Once quite common and widespread in Asia, the Mandarin Duck’s population declined drastically due to the destruction of its forest habitat and capture and export as a decorative species.

Today, the bird is found in the wild in Russia, China and Japan. Fewer than 1000 pairs of Mandarin Ducks can be found in China in the wild. A similar number can be found in Russia, while Japan is still home to 5000 pairs of wild Mandarin Ducks. Many specimens are kept in zoos around the world, and these are the only places that most people today can hope to see this special bird.

The few remaining wild Mandarin Ducks in China today breed in the forests of the extreme Northeast of the country. In spring they migrate along the East Coast to their wintering grounds in the South.

Fortunately, Mandarin Ducks introduced to the wild in other parts of the world have built up significant populations. A reported 7000 pairs of the birds can be found in Britain. Berlin, Germany also has a large local population of the birds. In America, Mandarin Ducks which escaped from captivity have established a population of several hundred in Sonoma County, California.

In the wild, Mandarin Ducks nest in tree cavities near lakes and ponds. They eat plants, seeds, fish, snails, and insects. They feed by dabbling in the manner of the Mallard.

This bird has been immortalized in Chinese art for centuries as a symbol of marital bliss and fidelity.

Mandarin Duck (Photo by Arpingstone)

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