Reddish Vale Country Park
Lifespan, max recorded age, 10yrs 4 months,
Breeding pairs in UK, 7000,
Diet, plant material, snails and insects
One of the most ornate of all waterfowl species the Mandarin Duck has been revered in Far Eastern culture since at least the fifth century. As Mandarins were thought to be monogamous, and therefore a symbol of fidelity, pairs were presented as wedding gifts to Japanese newly-weds.
The species was once widespread in eastern Asia, but large-scale exports and the destruction of its forest habitat have reduced populations in eastern Russia and in China to below 1,000 pairs in each country; Japan, however, is thought to still hold some 5,000 pairs.
The adult male is a striking and unmistakable bird. It has a red bill, large white crescent above the eye and reddish face and "whiskers". The breast is purple with two vertical white bars, and the flanks ruddy, with two orange "sails" at the back. The female is similar to the female Wood Duck,with a white eye-ring and stripe running back from the eye, but is paler below, has a small white flank stripe, and a pale tip to its bill.
In the wild, Mandarin Ducks breed in densely wooded areas near shallow lakes, marshes or ponds. They nest in cavities in trees close to water and during the spring, the females lay their eggs in the tree's cavity after mating.The males take no part in the incubation, simply leaving the female to secure the eggs on her own. However, unlike other species of ducks, the male does not completely abandon the female, leaving only temporarily until the ducklings have hatched. Shortly after the ducklings hatch, their mother flies to the ground and coaxes the ducklings to leap from the nest. After all of the ducklings are out of the tree, they will follow their mother to a nearby body of water where they would usually encounter the father, who will rejoin the family and protect the ducklings with the mother. If the father isn't found then it is likely that he may have deceased during his temporary leave. The Asian populations are migratory, overwintering in lowland eastern China and southern Japan.
Mandarin ducks in Britain are the descendants of captive-bred ducks which escaped or were deliberately released. Mandarins are one of the few duck species which are not hunted for food - apparently they taste really bad!
Mandarins may form small flocks in winter, but rarely associate with other ducks.
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Reddish Vale Country Park