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The Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata), or just Mandarin, is a mid-sized perching duck, closely related to the North American Wood Duck. The Mandarin's native range is Japan and eastern Asia, though populations also reside in western Europe and Great Britain now.
Considered by many the most beautifully colored of all waterfowl, male Mandarin ducks, or drakes, are unmistakable and strikingly distinctive with a red bill, large white crescent above the eye, chestnut and green crest, reddish face and "whiskers", purple breast, ruddy flanks, and two orange "sails" on his back.
In the summer, after the breeding season, the Mandarin drake displays his eclipse plumage by molting all the distinctive colorful feathers and appears much like the plainer female Mandarin until the ornamental plumage re-grows sometime in the fall.
Mandarin ducks have an elaborate courtship display dance consisting of raising sail feathers and crests, display preening, whistling calls, and head-bobbing. Mandarin nest in holes of hollow tree trunks, with downy feathers for cushioning, the female incubates a clutch of 9 to 12 eggs for about a month in the spring. With coaxing from the mother at ground level, shortly after hatching, the chicks jump to the ground and head for the water.
Although Mandarin mate for life, the male and female separate during the incubation period then rejoin to protect the ducklings that remain close to the female for 8 weeks until they are able to fly and can fend for themselves. Mandarin ducks prefer densely wooded areas near shallow lakes, marshes or ponds and eat vegetation, seeds, beechmast nuts, invertebrates, insects, and small fish.
Because Mandarin, unlike many other species of ducks, mate for a life-time they are frequently featured in oriental art and traditional Chinese lore as a symbol of wedded bliss and fidelity.