Harteman Wildfowl | kvk 90846257 | ubn 6872294

Mandarin duck

Aix galericulata

Mandarijneend / Mandarinente /  Canard Mandarin


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 (IUCN).

Captive breeding

Considered by most as the most ornamental of the world's ducks, the Mandarin Duck is a very popular aviary bird and commonly seen in many collections. They are closely related to the North American Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) and both species are the only members of the genus Aix. Despite the close relationship, there have been no proven reports of hybridization.


In the wild, Mandarins can be found in China, Korea, Japan and eastern Siberia. They have also been introduced to England where they have established themselves quite well. Mandarins have been the subject of art, poetry and other forms of Oriental literature for many centuries. In ancient literature, the Mandarin was known as a symbol of marital fidelity, due in large part to their strong pair bonds.

The drake is one of world's most beautiful ducks and quite unlike any other species. The forehead is glossy greenish-black that turns to purple as it slopes to a crest at the back of the head; the sides of the head are white with chestnut in front of the eyes. The sides of the neck and the cheeks have elongated chestnut feathers that form a mane; the upper breast is maroon, while the lower breast and belly are white. The sides and flanks are brown, finely penciled with black. The most unique features are the wing sails, which are bright orange feathers that stand straight up off his inner wings. The hen greatly resembles a wood duck hen. She is grayer and has a smaller crest and eye ring.


Like the wood duck, Mandarins require nesting boxes to nest in. The breeding season begins in late April when the hen begins to lay her clutch of 8 to 12 eggs that are incubated for about 28 days. The hens are good mothers and will riase her own young if you allow her to. The ducklings grow quickly and are able to fly at 8 weeks. They are able to breed the first year, but fertility is best during the second year.

Mandarins are often the "first duck" a waterfowl breeder has. They are very hardy, beautiful and easy to care for, making them an excellent choice for the beginner. Mandarins do not require a very large aviary and do well in mixed collections of waterfowl and also with other species such as doves and pheasants. If you do mix other species, please make sure the aviary is large enough for each pair to have their own breeding territory.

They are very quick and agile fliers, and if are to be kept free range, need to be wing clipped or pinioned. I find that they love to roost up high, so I provide plenty of branches and logs above the ground inside the aviary. Like all the species of ducks I have mentioned in these pages, they do require a source of clean, fresh water, but a large pond is not required. A child's wading pool with a ladder for entering and exiting will work great for those with limited space.

There is only one mutation of this species that I am aware of, the White Mandarin. Although they are not true albinos, they are sensitive to direct sunlight and need plenty of shade in the aviary. This mutation has become well established over the past few years and are quite popular. I do not know the breeder or original source of this mutation at this time.


Avicultural history

The Mandarin Duck came to Europe a great deal later than the Carolina. It reached England, however, in the first half of the eighteenth century as Sir Matthew Barker kept some at Richmond from which Edwards made his picture in 1745. Nothing, however, was said about the species for many years to come, but no doubt specimens arrived early in the nineteenth century, as Shaw stated they would not breed in captivity.

The London Zoo received two pairs in 1830, which bred in 1834. It was reared in France in 1856 and soon became well established, raised in large numbers each year. It is an excellent duck as well for large parks, where it can be kept full-winged without much risk, as for small gardens and even aviaries. One pair kept in a rather small cage, with a tiny pond, will usually breed every spring and raise its brood without difficulty.

There are now hundreds of feral Mandarins in England, near Woburn Abbey, where the Duke of Bedford released them more than fifty years ago, and in Surrey and Berkshire, where they are well established around Windsor and Virginia Waters from birds reared at liberty by A. Ezra at Foxwarren Park, near Cobham. There have been other colonies at various times, established by Lord Grey (Follodon), E.G.C. Meade-Waldo (Kent) and few others, which did not thrive. There are still a few in Shrophire, descending from those reared by Ronald and Noel Stevens at Walcot Hall before the 1939-45 war. At present some are released at the Wildfowl Trust, in Gloucestershire, and at Leckford, Hampshire. There were a number of full-winged birds around Clères, France, in 1940, but they were all destroyed during the war.


Between 1910 and 1940 large numbers of wild-trapped Mandarins were exported every winter from southern China to Europe and the United States, along with Baikal tea land Falcated ducks, and they could be obtained at low prices. This constant influx of new birds was very beneficial, although wild birds were less inclined to nest than home-bred ones. Since then very few have come, and the species became scarce after the war, although a number were reared annually in America. They are plentiful at present on both sides of the Atlantic, and it is hoped that these beautiful ducks will be maintained in captivity as their future in Asia is far from safe. 


From: Peter Scott, 1959, The Waterfowl of the World, Volume Three, Mandarin Duck, page 108-109.


Mandarin Left: Mandarin drake


Mandarin Left: Mandarin female


Woodie and Mandarin L.t.r.: Wood- and Mandarin duckling


Mandarin Left: Mandarin drake


Mandarins Left: Mandarin couple


Mandarins Left: Group of Mandarins

Possible geographical variation from Korea?

Normally, Mandarin females have grayish bills. Occasionally there appear females with reddish bills.
Only a few books describe deviant females as a possible geographical variation from a Korean population (Sir Peter Scott, Coloured Key of the Wildfowl).
Below you can find some photographs of Mandarins including females that might be claimed as possible offspring of Korean birds.


Mandarins Left: Mandarin female with red bill


Mandarins Left: Mandarin female with red bill


Mandarins Left: Mandarin female with red bill


Mutations in captivity

Since people keep and breed wildfowl in gardens and ponds, in some species colour variations (mutations) appear spontaneous in the offspring. In Mandarins we allready know mutations such as White, Apricot and Black. As some people seem to like these mutations, they breed (and select) them to sell them for much money. Unfortunatelly, many 'split birds' do not show the mutant colours, but they do carry the quality for it in their genes. So, also if some one is convinced of purchasing a 'normal' wild coloured couple of Mandarins, he might have bought one or more split birds. This only comes out when a couple of wild coloured birds gets deviant offspring; the parents must carry the quality for a colour variation in their genes. This might be one of the biggest problems for breeding wildfowl in the future. It may get difficult to obtain a couple of wild coloured birds in the future, if people keep breeding mutations and wild birds in the same enclosure.


White Mandarins Left: White Mandarin mutation



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