In the philosophy of Feng Shui the Mandarin Duck is one of those objects that is used and it is considered to be the “cure for love.” By that they mean that placing images or sculptures around your home will help you to find love. This is because the Mandarin is supposed to mate for life and partners are faithful to each other.
We arrived at the ponds quite early in the day and probably the first thing that happened was that we disturbed/woke up a group of Mandarins. Eleven males and no females huddled together on the bank.
Okay that is only six, here are the other five.
Finding all of these males huddled together made me start to wonder about the breeding habit of these birds. The females were obviously nesting.
Then we saw a female with two chicks and a male was with her. I couldn’t get a proper picture of this because she scarpered as soon as she saw me but I will post one so that you know I don’t lie.
Don’t worry, eleven males on the ground implies eleven females on the nest and a typical brood is eight to twelve eggs. Pretty soon there will be more ducklings than you can shake a stick at.
So now on with the photography and the understanding. I hadn’t planned to photograph the male at all but I ended up with some pictures that I hadn’t seen before and I am quite pleased to have got them.
The males don’t play a part in incubating the eggs. They abandon their partner while she gets on with what, in the world of Mandarin Duck’s, is obviously considered to be “women’s work”.
They pair up again when the ducklings leave the nest and then take an active role in feeding and protecting the ducklings for the next two months.
I was intrigued by how the chicks get out of the nest. Mandarins nest in trees, with a preference for old Woodpecker holes close to water. These are often twenty to twenty five feet above ground. They must have to teach the chicks how to fly before they can leave the nest and they would not be born with flight feathers.
Silly man. They jump. The chicks are born with the ability to swim but they won’t learn to fly until their flight feathers are fully developed. So with the courage of a Red Beret they fall out of the nest and plummet to the ground. They can fall thirty feet quite safely and then they join their mum in the water and that is it for the tree.
The other interesting thing that I found out about these birds was their diet. I always imagined that ducks ate some kind of aquatic weed and in fact they do but… Fruits of the forest, Beech Mast and Acorns are two of the favourite foods for the Mandarin. Obviously those are only available in season and in the spring Mandarins eat a lot of insects. Catching midges and even Dragonflies and that makes sense if you have ever looked at the surface of the water. It usually swarms with midges and small flying things. They also eat snails and beetles and catch fish. they are very versatile feeders.
So that is about it for Mandarins today. I hope that you liked the pictures, some of them were better than others. Photgraphing it out of the water like this and also learning a bit about it has changed the way that I look at this bird and now I am seeing it as much more than just a “Floats on water” Duck. It nests up trees and feeds on acorns and is a proper woodland bird.
Plus it is beautiful.