110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Lynn Bowen
posted Apr 7, 2014 - 9:35:00am
The mandarin duck is 18 inches long, has a 28-inch wingspan, and weighs 1.5 to 2 pounds.
But his claim to fame is that he has nearly every color of an artist’s palette in his plumage! He has long orange feathers on each side of his large, handsome head, orange “sails” on his back, a purple chest with two white stripes across it, brown sides, a green back, and a white forehead with a reddish crown. He has short orange legs and feet, and is very energetic. Thank goodness for color photography, since it would take hours to accurately describe this bird’s beauty and charm!
Mandarin ducks mate for life, but are solitary or live in small groups other than at breeding time. Then they have nests near other ducks, but located high in a tree cavity. The female is drab in comparison to the male, being mostly gray, but predators would easily find her otherwise.
In the spring, the female lays nine to 12 eggs. She alone incubates, but the male defends and guards his domain.
Russia, Eastern Asia, and China were mandarin ducks’ original home. Because of their beauty, many were in private collections and, of course, zoos. They must be good escape artists, because some live in the wild in Great Britain, Germany, the U.S., and a few other unlikely places. They love densely wooded areas near shallow lakes, marshes or ponds.
Mandarin ducks eat different foods during each season by dabbling in water or walking on land. In the spring, they dine on aquatic plants, snails, insects and small fish. In the fall and winter, they eat acorns and grains. During the summer months, they eat dew worms, fish, frogs, mollusks, and small snakes. They feed mainly at dawn or dusk, and perch in trees or on the ground in the daytime.
Some of the predators of the mandarin duck are minks, otters, polecats, dogs, cats, and grass snakes. Their greatest threat is habitat loss due to loggers. Hunters kill them for their feathers, but never for food, since they do not taste good.
The mandarin duck lives an average of 3 years in the wild. May these colorful, gorgeous ducks always add to the beauty of our planet.
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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