Male Mandarin Ducks Are Flashy Suitors But Poor Fathers
Females are left to rear ducklings while males get together for a molting party.
The mandarin drake "possesses an amazing and bizarre plumage which makes him one of the most beautiful and striking ducks—indeed one of the most beautiful birds—in the world." So says Christopher Lever, an eminent British conservationist and one of the world's leading authorities on mandarin ducks (Aix galericulata).
His statement begs a footnote. A mandarin drake hoping to mate is definitely a looker—but after he's achieved that goal? Not so much. (See National Geographic's backyard bird identifier.)
In Europe drakes sport what Lever calls "full breeding finery" in fall: green-and-copper head, purple breast, rust-colored ruff, orange-gold wings. Through the winter the courting male will preen, shake, and flash those feathers to entice the duller-hued female to mate.
By April or May