By Greg Dunne
January 16, 2012 (Lindo Lake) -- The latest poser for my Canon was this beautiful Mandarin Duck on January 14. On a cold, cloudy Saturday morning at the water’s edge at Lindo Lake it was my first new bird of the year 2012! This is the first time I’ve seen a Mandarin Duck in the wild.
I was pretty excited to see this beauty and was hoping that the pictures would come out well, being very early in the morning and cloudy. I’ve always enjoyed watching its close relative, the Wood Duck, which is fairly common in the East County. The Mandarin Duck and Wood Duck are arguably the two most colorful and striking ducks in the world. So this sighting was a real treat.
The Mandarin Duck is not a native but is commonly kept in captivity. When spotted in our county it’s usually the result of an escaped pet. It is found throughout Southeast Asia, Russia and China, with the largest populations being found in Japan and England. There are small populations of free-flying feral Mandarin Ducks reproducing in the wild across the United States from North Carolina to Sonoma County, California.
Most sightings of Mandarin Ducks are single specimens. Having said that most sightings (and my very recent personal observation) are of single a Mandarin Duck, I emailed a bird friend about my spotting a Mandarin Duck at the lake. He responded a couple days later with a Mandarin sighting of his own. After my email tip he went out to try to catch a glimpse of the Mandarin Duck and observed four pairs of Mandarin Ducks at Lindo Lake! I thought I had a lucky day.
One thing I found interesting reading up on the Mandarin Duck was that they are a “perching” duck. Their legs are set father forward on their bodies than most other ducks so that they are able to walk around on land more easily, seeming less clumsy out of the water and often found perching in trees.
Most sightings of this duck are early in the morning or late afternoon just before sunset. It seems to stay out of the sun and heat - resting in the shade during midday.
Unlike other species of ducks, most Mandarin drakes reunite with the hens they mated with along with their offspring after the eggs have hatched. They even share scout duties in watching the ducklings closely. Pair bonds are very strong. However, even with both parents securing the ducklings, most of them do not survive to adulthood.
Both Japanese and Chinese cultures hold the Mandarin Duck in high regards. In these countries they serve as a symbol of happiness and fidelity. Mandarin ducks are frequently featured in Chinese art and culture for many centuries.