The Mighty Mandarins

I had meetings downtown today and on the way home I stopped at the Senri Chuo park to see if I could photograph the majestic Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata). I was in luck that a woman was feeding them bread and we were behind the bird watchers blind and as the sun was setting on a beautiful late winter day, they came pretty close to shore. What an amazing color scheme they have! Above are two males. The female, below, is grey with a white eye patch. They were quite aggressive, chasing out Eurasian wigeons when they approached the bread.

The mandarin duck’s numbers are declining due to habitat loss and hunting in China. They breed in northern China and winter in southern China. There is also a year-round population in Japan, where they are safe and their numbers are now the largest. In winter they feed on seeds and grains and in the summer on fish, frogs, molluscs and small snakes.

In China and Korea they are associated with wedding bliss and fidelity because it is thought they pair for life. A Chinese saying for loving couples are like two mandarin ducks playing in the water.

I kept riding to Kita Senri park pond and managed to get the photo above of the Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) floating on its back preening its feathers. I also got a better picture of the male Smews (Mergellus albellus), although unlike the females, they are wary of coming close to shore. I am really enjoying watching the winter ducks of Osaka.

Two male smews chasing a female smew



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