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Information About Mandarin Ducks (With Original Photos)

Ann is a passionate birder and photographer. She loves nothing better than creating photo storybooks about her beloved birds.

Female (left) and male (right) Mandarin ducks

Female (left) and male (right) Mandarin ducks

Mandarin ducks (Aix galericulata) are one of the most photogenic birds you can find. They are not native to Britain (where I live), so we mostly see them in reserves and private collections. That said, some have escaped into the wild, and wild populations are becoming more common in Britain. According to the RSPB, there are around 2300 breeding pairs in England now. The photos in this article were taken by the author at Martin Mere, one of the WWT reserves in England.

History and Current Status

They originated in Asia, but in the last 50 years, they have become naturalised in parts of Britain. They are also known as Beijin ducks and love ducks, and they have the reputation of being particularly loving. Hence, they are sometimes used in feng shui to symbolise marriage, couples. fidelity and loyalty.

This colourful duck was so named because of the male’s brilliant skull plumage which resembles an ancient Chinese Mandarin headdress. It is native to Asia, but with imports, it has become naturalised in the UK.

It received official British breeding status in 1971, and there are now around 7000 birds in Britain ranging from London and the south to Perthshire in Scotland. Locally, we have one recent sighting on the Leeds-to-Liverpool Canal near Bingley, West Yorkshire. Export of live birds and habitat destruction threaten the populations in Korea and China.

Appearance and Habitat

The male, or drake, is a very distinctive bird when in breeding plumage. They lose this in summer while they moult and become almost indistinguishable to the female except for their red bill.

Both sexes are similar in size. They are medium to small birds with compact bodies and largish heads. The male has distinctive orange whiskers and and "sail" (a display of feathers near the short tail). Forehead plumage on the male is black with green iridescence.

Both male and female ducks have white eye circles or spectacles that carry on a line down the crest; on the male, the band is wider. The male has orange-tawny-colored cheeks with long feathers forming a ruff. The head also displays some purple and grey-green, while the breast is maroon with black and white stripes. Feathers toward the rear form orange sails. The flanks are chestnut brown to orange, while the abdomen and under-tail feathers are white. They have yellow legs and feet.

The female is much less gaudy but is still an extremely attractive bird with brown eyes outlined with white. They also display some white on the throat and have a white line at the base of the grey bill. They are mainly olive with brown underbellies and pale spotted sides. Their legs and feet are yellow.

In their native habitat, these birds prefer lakes and rivers or canals with overhanging sheltering vegetation. In his book, Wildfowl of the Northern Hemisphere, author Ray Hutchins describes the male's call as “a sharp rising weak whistle” and the female's as a “soft quack as a kek or ack”.


They eat nuts, seeds, insects, and small fish. They tend to like small insects, snails, and the like and will dabble in water for plant life. They eat small fish too. On land, they forage for seeds and some grasses, though they are not really grazing birds. I'm told they have a particular fondness for acorns.

Nesting and Reproduction

They like to nest high up in cavities of trees. They don't actually build nests but instead rely on natural chippings and moss that already exist. The female will pluck feathers from her breast to cover her eggs.

They tend to lay eight eggs. The female incubates the eggs while the male stands guard. The eggs hatch in around 28 days. The hatchlings don't get long to enjoy the nest, though. Soon after hatching, the female will fly to the ground and call for them. They jump down, sometimes from a great height, and they don't return to the nest after that. The female broods them on the ground.

Both parents guard the chicks for the first couple of weeks, teaching them where to find food and so on.

At Martin Mere and other reserves, nesting boxes are provided with ramps for access, but the eggs are removed and taken to their incubation centre. They consider them too valuable to leave for the adult birds to incubate. There are lots of predators waiting to pluck these out. Herons and gulls in particular wait until the grounds are empty of visitors and staff them swoop in to this ready food source.

Mandarin Ducks and Feng Shui

One source I read cited mandarin ducks as a "cure for single people." I'm not quite sure that is something that needs curing, but if you want to increase your chances of getting into a relationship, placing a pair of mandarin ducks in the right place in your home is said to double your chances. Placed in the southwest corner of a home or in a bedroom, statues of mandarin ducks are said to foster love and attraction.

They are certainly seen as an ideal in love and companionship and so are frequently given as gifts for marriage and anniversaries. Link that with the positive vibes and rose quartz, and how can you go wrong?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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© 2010 annmackiemiller

Have you enjoyed these photos?

Katherine Tyrrell from London on October 07, 2014:

Lovely photos Ann!

annmackiemiller (author) from Bingley Yorkshire England on October 07, 2014:

thanks folks, they really are quite beautiful aren't they?

annmackiemiller (author) from Bingley Yorkshire England on October 07, 2014:

any time - I'll send you a high resolution piccie

Julia M S Pearce from Melbourne, Australia on October 06, 2014:

What beautiful ducks! Great photos and info.Thanks for sharing.

Shay Marie from Southern California on October 06, 2014:

To echo everyone else here: gorgeous ducks! These are stunning photos.

Paula Atwell from Cleveland, OH on October 06, 2014:

Incredible gorgeous. I may ask you for permission to paint one of these pictures one day. :)

princesswithapen on December 03, 2011:


These pictures are beautiful. The colors on the male mandarin duck are stunning! Excellent hub and excellent pictures!


Bud Gallant from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada on July 22, 2011:

Very beautiful. I am glad to have learned about these ducks from your hub, and, as usual, your photography creates a delight for the eyes.

annmackiemiller (author) from Bingley Yorkshire England on March 14, 2011:

thanks Evelyn, that means a lot to me

Evelyn Saenz from Vermont on March 14, 2011:

Mandarin Ducks are certainly exotic looking ducks and you have amazing skills as a photographer.

Denise Handlon from North Carolina on January 01, 2011:

How gorgeous! Great info. Thanks for sharing. The photos are beautiful.

Linda Jo Martin from Post Falls, Idaho, USA on December 31, 2010:

They are such beautiful ducks!

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