Mandarin duck is a forest waterfowl belonging to the duck family. The scientific description of the bird and the Latin name Aix galericulata was given by Carl Linnaeus in 1758. The colorful plumage of drakes attracts attention and distinguishes these birds from other related species.
Origin of the species and description
The first word in the Latin name of the mandarin is — aix, denotes the ability to dive, which, however, tangerines do rarely and without much desire. The second half of the name – galericulata means a headdress like a cap. In a male duck, the plumage on the head resembles a cap.
This bird from the anseriformes order is considered a forest duck. A distinctive feature that distinguishes it from other representatives of the duck family is its ability to build nests and incubate eggs in hollow trees.
Video: Mandarin Duck
The ancient ancestors of ducks were found on our planet about 50 million years BC. This is one of the branches of the palamedia, which also belongs to the anseriformes. Their appearance and distribution began in the Southern Hemisphere. Mandarin ducks have a more isolated habitat – this is East Asia. Their close relatives living on trees are found in Australia and on the American continent.
The ducks got their name thanks to the Chinese nobles – tangerines. Officials occupying high ranks in the Celestial Empire liked to dress up. The male bird has a very bright, multi-colored plumage, similar in appearance to the clothes of dignitaries. The appearance served as the common name for this tree duck. The female, as is often the case in nature, has a more modest outfit.
Interesting fact: Tangerines are a symbol of marital fidelity and family happiness. If a girl does not marry for a long time, then in China it is recommended to put duck figurines under her pillow to speed things up.
Appearance and features
This bird has a length of forty to fifty centimeters. The wingspan of medium size is 75 cm. The weight of an adult is 500-800 g.
The head of a male with a red beak has a diverse color. From above, it is covered with longer feathers of red tones with a green and purple tint. On the sides, where the eyes are, the feathers are white, and closer to the beak they are orange. This color fan out further on the neck, but closer to the back of the neck, it abruptly changes to green-blue.
Two white stripes run parallel on the purple chest. The sides of the male bird are brownish-red with two orange “sails” that are slightly raised above the back. The tail is blue-black. The back has feathers in dark, black, blue, green and white. Belly and undertail are white. The paws of the male bird are orange.
More modest in appearance, females are dressed in pockmarked, gray plumage. The head with a dark gray beak has a barely noticeable crest of long feathers, lowered down. The black eye is edged with white and a white stripe descends from it to the back of the head. The back and head are colored gray more evenly, and the throat and breast are interspersed with lighter feathers. At the end of the wing there is a blue and greenish tint. The paws of the female are beige or gray.
Males show off their bright plumage during the mating season, after which molting begins and waterfowl dandies change their appearance, becoming as inconspicuous and gray as their faithful girlfriends. At this time, they can be distinguished by their orange beak and the same paws.
Interesting fact: White individuals can be found in zoos and urban reservoirs, this is due to mutations derived from closely related ties .
Mandarin ducklings are very similar to other young of related species, such as mallards. But in mallard babies, a dark stripe running from the back of the head passes through the eye and reaches the beak, while in tangerines it ends at the eye.
Where does the mandarin duck live?
On the territory of Russia, this bird can be found in the forests in the Far East, always near water bodies. This is the basin of the rivers Zeya, Gorin, Amur, in the lower reaches of the river. Amgun, the valley of the Ussuri River and in the area of Lake Orel. The usual habitats of these birds — mountain spurs of the Sikhote-Alin, the Khanka lowland and the south of Primorye. In the south of the Russian Federation, the range border runs along the slopes of the Bureinsky and Badzhalsky ridges. Tangerines are found on Sakhalin and Kunashir.
This bird lives on the Japanese islands of Hokkaido, Hanshu, Kyushu, Okinawa. In Korea, tangerines appear during flights. In China, the range runs along the spurs of the Great Khingan and Laoeling ridges, capturing the adjacent upland, the Songhua basin, the coast of the Liaodong Gulf.
Ducks choose protected places near water basins for living: the banks of rivers, lakes, where these places are have forest thickets and rocky ledges. This is due to the fact that ducks find food in the water, and arrange nests in trees.
In regions with a colder climate, the mandarin is found in the summer, from here it flies away for the winter to those places where temperatures do not fall below five degrees Celsius. To do this, ducks travel long distances, for example, from the Russian Far East they migrate to the Japanese islands and the southeast coast of China.
Interesting fact: Captive-bred tangerines often “escape” from zoos and conservation areas, migrate as far as Ireland, where there are already more than 1000 pairs.
Now you know where the mandarin duck lives. Let's see what she eats.
What does the mandarin duck eat?
Birds have a mixed diet. It consists of river dwellers, shellfish, as well as vegetation and seeds. From living organisms for birds, food is: fish eggs, small fish, tadpoles, molluscs, crustaceans, snails, slugs, frogs, snakes, aquatic insects, worms.
From plant food: a variety of plant seeds, acorns, beech nuts. Herbaceous plants and leaves are eaten, it can be aquatic species and those that grow in the forest, along the banks of water bodies.
Birds feed at dusk: at dawn and before sunset. In zoos and other places of artificial breeding, they are fed with minced meat, fish, seeds of cereal plants:
Character and lifestyle features
Tangerines settle in dense coastal thickets, where they make shelters in tree hollows and in rock crevices. They prefer lowlands, floodplains, valleys, swampy places, water meadows, flooded fields, but with the obligatory presence of forest broad-leaved vegetation. On mountain slopes and uplands, these birds can be found at an altitude of no more than one and a half thousand meters above sea level.
In mountainous places, ducks prefer river banks, where there are mixed and broad-leaved forests, valleys with windbreaks. The spurs of the Sikhote-Alin are characteristic of this area, where other river flows and streams merge with the Ussuri.
Interesting fact: Tangerines can not only settle on trees, but also fly almost vertically upwards.
Features of mandarins:
- when flying, they maneuver well;
- these birds, unlike other ducks, often seen sitting on tree branches;
- they are excellent swimmers, but rarely use the opportunity to dive under water, although they know how to do it;
- ducks hold their tail high above the water while swimming;
- mandarins emit a characteristic whistle, they do not quack like their other family members.
Social structure and reproduction
The main difference between these beautiful waterfowl is monogamy. Such devotion to each other made them in the East a symbol of a strong marriage union. The male starts mating games in early spring. The bright plumage is designed to attract a female, but the drake does not stop there, it swims in circles on the water, raises long feathers on the back of its head, thereby visually increasing its size. Several applicants can take care of one duck. After the lady makes her choice, this couple remains faithful for life. If one of the partners dies, then the other is left alone.
The mating season falls on the end of March, the beginning of April. After that, the female finds herself a secluded place in the hollow of a tree or builds a nest in a windbreak, under the roots of trees, where she lays from four to a dozen eggs.
An interesting fact: To make it convenient for these birds to sit and move along the branches of trees, nature provided their paws with powerful claws that can cling to the bark and hold the duck firmly in the crown of trees.
During incubation, which lasts almost a month, the male brings food to the partner, helping her to survive this responsible and difficult period.
Ducklings emerging from white eggs are very active from the first hours. Very interesting first “publication”. Since these ducks settle in hollows or crevices of rocks, it is somewhat problematic for kids who do not yet know how to fly to get to the water. The mandarin mother comes downstairs and whistles for the babies. Brave ducklings jump out of the nest, flopping quite hard on the ground, but immediately jump up on their paws and start running.
After waiting until all the ducklings are on the ground, the mother leads them to the water. They immediately descend into the water, swim well and actively. The kids immediately begin to get their own food: herbaceous plants, seeds, insects, worms, small crustaceans and molluscs.
If there is a need and in danger, the duck hides with its chicks in dense coastal thickets, and caring and brave the drake, causing “fire on itself”, distracts predators. The chicks begin to fly after a month and a half.
After two months, the young ducklings are already completely independent. Young males molt and create their flock. Sexual maturity in these ducks occurs at the age of one. The average life expectancy is seven and a half years.
Natural enemies of mandarin ducks
In nature, the enemies of ducks are those animals that can destroy nests in hollow trees. For example, even such rodents as squirrels are able to get into the hollow and feast on tangerine eggs. Raccoon dogs, otters not only eat eggs, but also prey on young ducklings and even adult ducks, which are not large in size and are not able to resist if they are taken by surprise.
Ferrets, minks, any representatives of mustelids, foxes, and other predators, the size of which allows them to hunt these small waterfowl, pose a real threat to them. They are also hunted by snakes, their victims are chicks and eggs. Birds of prey: eagle owls, owls are also not averse to eating tangerines.
Poachers play a special role in reducing livestock in natural habitats. Hunting for these beautiful birds is prohibited, but they are not killed for their meat, but because of their bright plumage. The birds are then taken to taxidermists to be stuffed. There is also always the possibility of accidentally hitting a mandarin duck during the hunting season for other ducks, since in the air it is difficult to distinguish it from other birds from the duck family.
Interesting fact: Mandarin ducks do not hunted for meat, as it has an unpleasant taste. This contributes to the conservation of birds in nature.
Population and species status
Mandarin ducks used to be ubiquitous in eastern Asia. Human activities, deforestation, have significantly reduced the habitats suitable for these birds. They have disappeared from many regions where their nests were previously found.
Back in 1988, the mandarin duck was listed in the international Red Book as an endangered species. In 1994, this status was changed to low risk, and since 2004 these birds have the least threat.
Despite the trend towards a decrease in the population and narrowing of the natural habitat, this duck species has a large distribution area and their number does not tends to critical values. The decline in numbers itself is not fast, it is less than 30% in ten years, which does not cause concern for this species.
Of great importance for the partial restoration of the population was the ban on mole rafting of the forest. Russia has a number of protection agreements on migratory birds with Japan, Korea and China, including mandarin ducks.
In order to further increase the population of these beautiful birds in the Far East, experts:
- the state of the species is monitored;
- observance of environmental protection measures is monitored;
- artificial nests are hung along the river banks, especially in places close to nature reserves,
- new and expanding old protected areas.
Mandarin Duck Conservation
In Russia, hunting for tangerines is prohibited, this bird is under state protection. In the Far East, in Primorye, more than 30 thousand copies nest. There are several protected areas where waterfowl can freely settle along the banks of reservoirs. These are the Sikhote-Alinsky, Ussurisky nature reserves, Kedrovaya Pad, Khingansky, Lazovsky, Bolshekhekhtsirsky protected areas.
In 2015, a new nature protection park was created in the area of the Bikin River in Primorsky Krai, where there are many suitable places for mandarin ducks to live . In total, there are about 65,000 — 66,000 individuals (estimated by Wetlands International 2006).
National estimates of breeding pairs of these waterfowl differ somewhat and range by country:
- China – about 10,000 breeding pairs;
- Taiwan – about 100 breeding pairs;
- Korea – about 10 thousand breeding pairs;
- Japan – up to 100 thousand breeding pairs.
In addition, these countries also have wintering birds. Tangerines are artificially bred in many countries where they can now be found in nature: in Spain on the Canary Islands, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, England, Denmark, France, Germany, Slovenia and Switzerland. Tangerines exist but do not breed in Hong Kong, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Nepal and Myanmar. There are numerous isolated groups of these birds in the USA.
These cute waterfowl, which are a symbol of a strong marriage union, adorn many zoos in the world. Where climatic conditions allow, they are bred in city ponds, and some people keep ducks as pets. These birds are easily tamed and tolerate life well in captivity.