Saturday, January 7, 2012

Flamboyance Incarnate--The Mandarin Duck

What would you get if you transmogrified a Green Heron with a Cedar Waxwing and a Wood Duck? It would probably be a heinous and unnatural creation. Luckily we do not have to entertain such hideous science, because we already have the Mandarin Duck!

Technically we don't really have Mandarin Ducks in North America, though they are related to the Wood Duck. They were once widespread in China and East Russia, but have significantly dwindled in the wild and are now a majority in-captivity species. They occasionally turn up around the United States, either as escapees or released birds, and are always stunning to see.

This solitary male was at the Kiwanis Park in Tempe, AZ, and was clearly acclimated to people as he let me get very close even despite my gawking.

Here you can see the ruddy beard of the Green Heron, the yellow and white creamy facial feathers that resemble a Waxwing, and of course the prominent greens, blues, and reads on top of the head. The colors continue on the bird's breast, where they are accented by a central white spot. The bold black and white shoulder stripes give way to the zebra-striped flanks, dark blue feathers on the back, and the conspicuous, vertical paddles towards the back.

The Mandarin Duck is not on any official ABA lists since it is both a recent introduction and most species found in the wild are not second generation. That probably won't change for a long time, but I feel pretty lucky to see this bird first hand, as it is no doubt one of the most colorful creatures to be found in North America, and perhaps the world.


  1. That duck is too much.
    "Flamboyance incarnate" is a very apt description.

  2. Very cool!!! I've only seen this bird the "Beautiful Birds" book my son likes to read every night.

  3. I love, Love, LOVE this duck! And your photos are gorgeous. Thanks for sharing.