Looking for a duck that is unique and interesting? Check out the Mandarin Duck! As its name suggests, the Mandarin Duck is a pretty and distinctive little waterbird from the Far East. They are slightly smaller than a standard duck and have a colorful crest on their head. Unlike most ducks, they nest in trees, sometimes high in the air. These perching birds make good pet ducks because they are easy to care for and don’t require a lot of effort.

Mandarin Ducks are very active and need plenty of room to move around. They are also very good swimmers and can be very entertaining to watch. If you are looking for a charming and interesting duck to add to your home, the Mandarin Duck should definitely be on your list.


Quick Facts About Mandarin Ducks

Breed Name:Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata)
Place of Origin:The Far East
Drake (Male) Size:An adult male can weigh up to 0.63 kg (1.4 lbs.)
Hen (Female) Size:An adult female can reach 1.08 kg (2.4 lbs.)
Color:Greenish-black forehead, purple crest near the back of the head. Creamy-white sides to the head, chestnut patch below the eyes. Longer brown feathers on the sides of the neck and the cheeks. Upper breast is maroon, lower breast and belly are white. Compared to males, females are grayer.
Lifespan:Wild up to 6 years, in captivity max 10 years
Climate Tolerance:Temperate
Care Level:Low-maintenance
Production:None – ornamental only

Mandarin Ducks Origins

Large-scale exports and the destruction of their forest habitat have resulted in populations of this species declining in East Asia. Although small populations of the beautiful Mandarin duck are still found in parts of China, Japan, Korea, and Russia. The exact origins of the Mandarin duck are still a topic of debate, with some believing that they come from China and others believing that they come from Japan.

The most likely explanation is that the Mandarin duck is a migratory bird and has been found in both China and Japan at different times throughout history. Specimens escape from collections frequently, and a large, feral population developed in Great Britain during the 20th century. Across the UK and Western Europe, these birds either escaped or were deliberately released from captivity, and over the past 100 years, small flocks have been established in many countries.

Mandarin duck in the water
Image Credit: David Reed, Pixabay


Mandarin Ducks Characteristics

As a result of their highly social behavior, Mandarin ducks can be seen flying in large flocks during the winter. A female initiates a mate search by orienting enticing behavior towards the mate she prefers. Bobbing, shaking, and mock-drinking are all part of the ducks’ courtship display. It is possible for mating pairs to stay together for several breeding seasons after pairing up. Their pair bonds are very strong. As long as both ducks survive each winter, they will return to the same mate. Nests are built in tree holes, where 9–12 eggs are laid, which hatch after approximately 30 days.

A Mandarin female may also lay eggs in another female’s nest, which is known as nest parasitism. This is thought to be so they do not have to construct their own nests or incubate eggs. Young birds make a “brood leap” out of their tree soon after hatching. Although this drop can reach 30 feet in height, chicks generally land unharmed and head to the water to feed.


The Mandarin Duck is a breed of duck that is considered ornamental. This means that they are bred for their appearance rather than their ability to produce meat or eggs. The Mandarin Duck is a safe food in the sense that they won’t make you ill if you eat them. The taste, however, is terrible, according to most people. Because they taste bad, this species has been able to survive without being hunted for food.

They are also not easy ducks to take eggs from, being shy perching birds. They are usually kept as pets or in parks and zoos and are known for their beautiful coloring and markings.

Mandarin duck standing on a rock
Image Credit: Marcel, Pixabay

Appearance & Varieties

In adult males, there is a large white crescent above the eye, a reddish face, and whiskers, or long feathers on their cheeks. Their breasts are purple with two vertical white bars, their flanks are ruddy, and they have two orange “sails” on their backs (feathers that stick up like boat sails). The females have a white eye-ring and a white stripe from their eyes, but are paler overall, with a white flank stripe and pale bill tips. In contrast, the female appears mostly gray, characterized by multiple white spots on the underside.

Males and females both have crests, but males tend to have a more prominent purple crest. When flying, male and female ducks display a blueish-green speculum (a brightly colored patch on the secondary wings of many duck species).

In captivity, Mandarin ducks exhibit a variety of mutations. The white Mandarin duck is the most common. Genetic conditions such as leucism are believed to have been caused by the constant pairing of related birds and selective breeding, although the origin of this mutation is unknown.


They prefer dense, shrubby forests along rivers and lakes during the breeding season. Although they breed primarily in low-lying areas, they can also breed at altitudes up to 1,500 m (4,900 ft). Winter habitats also include marshes, flooded fields, and open rivers. Wintering is also possible in coastal lagoons and estuaries despite their preference for fresh water. They live more openly in their introduced European range, around lakes, water meadows, and cultivated areas with woods nearby, compared to their native range.

Originally found in wooded ponds and fast-flowing streams in Russia, China, Korea, Taiwan, and Japan, there is now a population of released captive-bred birds in Europe. In the past, the species was widespread in East Asia. However, mass exports and destruction of habitats have brought populations in Russia’s east and China to fewer than 1,000 pairs each. The number of pairs is believed to still be around 5,000 in Japan, however. Overwintering occurs in lowland eastern China and southern Japan for Asian populations.

A large feral population was established in Great Britain in the early 20th century as a result of specimens escaping from collections. More recently, a small number has bred in Ireland, concentrated in the parks of Dublin. Currently, 7,000 are living in Britain with others on the continent, the largest of which is in the Berlin region.

The United States has isolated populations and a feral population of several hundred mandarins exists in Sonoma County, California. In addition, the town of Black Mountain, North Carolina, has a small population. Several ducks escaped captivity and reproduced in the wild, resulting in this population. New York City’s Central Park was home to a single bird named Mandarin Patinkin in 2018.

Mandarin duck foraging in the grass
Image Credit: Lancier, Pixabay


Are Mandarin Ducks Good for Small-Scale Farming?

The question of whether or not Mandarin ducks are good for small-scale farming is a complicated one. On the surface, it might seem that they would be a good choice, as they are a smaller breed of duck. However, it should be noted that Mandarin ducks do not taste very good, so they are not a good choice for meat production. Therefore, the main purpose of keeping these ducks is for their ornamental value, as they are very pretty creatures. Mandarin ducks can be purchased for $100–$600 per duck, depending on their quality and health. It costs about $350 for a pair of Mandarin ducks, while it costs $600 for a single duck. Breeding ducks for sale could thus be a lucrative business venture for a small farmer.

Featured Image Credit: blende12, Pixabay