The Mandarin duck originated in China where it stands as a symbol for fidelity and marriage. The reason for this symbol is because, unlike many other domestic ducks, the mandarin drake almost always reunites with the same hen spring after spring.
Mandarins are a perching duck that are closely related to the North American Wood Duck. When in breeding plumage, the mandarin drake is one of the most beautiful ducks you will ever see. He has a bright red bill and a big white crescent over his eyes that fades to a chesnut color. The top of his head fades from dark blue to green to red to purple as it runs toward his back. The drake also has orange whisker-like feathers that stick out from his face. The breast is a deep purple with two white bars running vertical on the sides. His belly is all white and he has yellow legs. My favorite part is the signature orange "sails" that are near his tail.
The female is similar to the female wood duck. The female mandarin isn't color as a way to be camouflaged from predators while she is sitting on a nest. She is mainly colors of brown, grey, and white. She has a white ring around her eye and a white line extending from the eye. Mandarins form monogamous pairs and will not interbreed with any other breed of duck, making them a good breed to have in a mixed collection.
Starting in late fall and throughout the early spring, the mandarin female will look for a place to make her nest. Mandarins prefer a wood duck style nestbox. Click here to see the Nestbox page. The female will lay a clutch of about 8-12 eggs in March. These eggs will be incubated for about 28 days.
The Mandarin duck is a great duck for beginners and are a joy to watch. They should be kept in an aviary as they can fly and will fly away and not come back if they are not enclosed. They are a popular aviary duck, hardy in harsh weather, and easy to take care of.