Duke Gardens is home to our very own Mandarin duck, Aix galericulata. Native to Russia, China and Japan, Mandarin ducks live in forest ponds and streams. While the females are brown and drab, the males are a beautiful mix of red, yellow, blue, orange and purple - so bright, in fact, that one Gardens visitor calls him "Skittles."
Beyond their colorful feathers, Mandarin ducks are known for their long-distance migratory flights and, according to the University of Michigan, "have been known to cover 500 miles in 24 hours." Our bird, of course, does not migrate. He came from the Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park in Scotland Neck, N.C.
Mandarin ducks are well loved in all parts of the world, and in addition to delighting visitors to Duke Gardens, Sylvan Heights and elsewhere, they also serve as a symbol of happiness and marital fidelity in Asia. Unfortunately, habitat destruction has decimated their breeding grounds, and their population could be as low as 20,000. Luckily, Mandarin ducks have a notoriously awful taste, and are thus not very vulnerable to predators.
|Mandarin duck (right) and the similarly beautiful native wood duck.|
Both are members of the Aix genus, but from different parts of the world.
To learn more, visit the University of Michigan's Animal Diversity page.
Blogger Erika Zambello is a graduate student studying Ecosystem Science and Conservation at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.