The mandarin, widely regarded as the world’s most beautiful duck, is a native of China and Japan.
The drake mandarin’s stunning plumage has long made it an artist’s favourite, and it is widely depicted in oriental art.
The first mandarins were imported to Britain in the mid-18th century, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that escapes from wildfowl collections started breeding here.
The first birds to escape did so from Alfred Ezra’s collection at Foxwarren Park, near Cobham in Surrey, and this area remains one of the strongholds of mandarins in England.
Mandarins favour small wooded ponds and avoid lakes or large bodies of open water.
They are extremely manoeuvrable fliers, able to fly through trees with remarkable agility.
They frequently perch in trees, while the female invariably chooses a hole or cavity in a tree trunk in which to lay her eggs.
Lack of natural nest sites and competition from jackdaws and squirrels limits population expansion, but they will readily adopt suitable nest boxes.
After hatching, the ducklings jump to the ground: their fluffy down and lightweight ensures that injuries are unusual.
Once the mother has gathered her brood, she leads them straight to water.
It was long believed that the British population – now close to 8,000 birds – was of international importance, but previously undiscovered populations have been discovered in China, so this duck is far more numerous than was once thought.,
In their native China mandarins have long been regarded as symbols of fidelity and pairs were given to brides on their wedding day.
In fact mandarins, like most ducks, only pair for the season, and new pairs will form again in the autumn.
The drake mandarin’s display is highly ritualised, and includes raising the crest and the orange sails, and ritualised drinking and preening behind the sail.
The so-called sail is an elongated tertial feather.