27 Dec 2013

Mandarin Ducks at National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

Three Mandarin ducks sit in formation on a handrail at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. It was amazing to experience. The Mandarin duck is a medium-size perching duck, closely related to the North American wood duck. Referred to by the Chinese as Yuan-yang, they are frequently featured in Oriental art and are regarded as a symbol of conjugal affection and fidelity.
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The adult male is a striking and unmistakable bird. It has a red bill, large white crescent above the eye and reddish face and "whiskers". The breast is purple with two vertical white bars, and the flanks ruddy, with two orange "sails" at the back. The female is similar to female Wood Duck, with a white eye-ring and stripe running back from the eye, but is paler below, has a small white flank stripe, and a pale tip to its bill. The Mandarin ducklings are almost identical in look to Wood ducklings, and appear very similar to Mallard ducklings. The ducklings can be distinguished from Mallard ducklings because the eye-stripe of Mandarin ducklings (and Wood ducklings) stops at the eye, while in Mallard ducklings it reaches all the way to the bill.
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The male has the most elaborate and ornate plumage with distinctive long orange feathers on the side of the face, orange 'sails' on the back, and pale orange flanks. The female is dull by comparison with a grey head and white stripe behind the eye, brown back and mottled flanks. They were introduced to the UK from China and have become established following escapes from captivity.
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