Sunday: Duck o’ the Week

With this installment we bring the North American Duck segment to a close, as John Avise has now presented every species of duck in North America. I hope that by now you know all the species, especially the mallard and the wood duck. But we have one final contribution: not a native duck, but a beautiful one that has established residence in the U.S., helping make America great again.  Next week we start a new Sunday series, but I’ll keep that under wraps. The ID and Duck Facts are below the fold.  John’s notes (and, below the fold, Duck Facts) are indented.

Here are photos and comments for this week’s Duck o’ the Week.  [(The Cornell site has no map for this species because it is not native to North America).  This is the 29th and final of our “Duck o’ the Week” series, which I’ve very greatly enjoyed.  Next week I’ll introduce and begin our follow-up series, which should continue for several more months.


Young hen:

Eclipse drake:

Breeding drake:

Drake, rear view:

Drake standing:

Drake swimming:

Drake, frontal view:

Pair standing

Pair swimming:

JAC: Now this is sexual selection!

Click “read more” to get the ID and Duck Facts. I’ve put in a video for fun.

ID: Mandarin Duck(Aix galericulata)

This species is native to Japan and East Asia, but its gaudy plumage has made it a sought-after prize for zoos and private waterfowl collections around the world.  The net result is that escaped or feral birds now also occur in many urban parks scattered around North America and Europe.  Closely related to North America’s Wood Duck (Aix sponsa), these are the only two extant members of the genus.  The drake’s breeding plumage, including its sail-like flank feathers, is outrageously beautiful, so our applause must go to the Mandarin hens for sexually-selecting these extraordinary evolutionary outcomes!   I also notice from internet searches that Mandarin Duck feathers are highly sought for tying artificial flies used for trout and salmon fishing.

JAC: Remember when the mandarin duck drake showed up in New York City’s Central Park pond two years ago, enthralling jaded New Yorkers?  Here’s a video of the bird and people’s reaction. I like it when one Gen Xer says, “Genuinely, we haven’t even looked at our phones. We have just been looking at the duck. It’s just so beautiful.”

That Mandarin duck, named “Mandarin Patinkin” after the actor, has its own Wikipedia page. Note that it’s banded, which suggests it had a private owner and either escaped or was released. It was last seen in the Park in March, 2019 and last spotted in December of that year. It may be off by itself in some remote area. What a pity it doesn’t have a mate!


  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted October 11, 2020 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    I was automatically thinking “wood duck” because of the Botany pond developments, but then no! Of course it’s the mandarin duck!

    • rickflick
      Posted October 11, 2020 at 9:01 am | Permalink

      The female had me thinking the same. It has a white ring around the eye, but there are subtle other differences. I was not surprised to read they are related to the woody.

  2. Posted October 11, 2020 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    I have really enjoyed Duck of the Week! Thanks-you John Avise.

  3. C.
    Posted October 11, 2020 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    The final duck? But there’s something like 180 species worldwide and who knows how many breeds in captivity, that should keep this going for at least a year or two.

  4. john avise
    Posted October 11, 2020 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    “has now presented every species of duck in North America.” This should say every species of duck in North America for which I have good photographs. There are a very few additional duck species on the continent for which I don’t yet have quality photos (and these rarer species give me something to look forward to in my future photographic efforts!).

  5. Posted October 11, 2020 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Got one! Only because I remember the Central Park story.

  6. Derek Freyberg
    Posted October 11, 2020 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Thanks to our host for posting this series; and a special thanks to Prof. Avise for a wonderful education on North American ducks.
    I’ve seen mandarin ducks in Japan, but not in the US.

  7. Posted October 11, 2020 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    They are naturalised in the British Isles now in many areas. Not sure if the migrate here.

  8. Posted October 11, 2020 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    Got this one right… after all, this bird is unforgettable. Thanks for your gorgeous photos and duck facts, John!

  9. openidname
    Posted October 12, 2020 at 12:33 am | Permalink

    Damn, I’m a human female, and that drake is turning even me on!

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