The Mandarin Duck,
This review is from: The Mandarin Duck (Poyser Monographs) (Hardcover)
There are 179 species in the Anatidae – the world’s ducks, geese and swans, and I think there are few that match the Mandarin Duck in terms of being gaudy and, to some degree, unmistakable. Perhaps only the relatively similar Wood Duck comes close in the fashion stakes. Needless to say we are talking about the males here!
The females of both species are dull and greyish-brown.
Some of the things that you’ll often hear said about the Mandarin are untrue. For a start, there are not yet more of them here in the UK than in Asia, and secondly the species was not introduced into the UK. In fact it was effectively reintroduced, as fossil remains show that it was here many hundreds of years ago.
Relatively little has been written about the species since its return to the UK as an escape from captivity in Surrey in the early 1930s. A book by Christopher Savage appeared in the 1950s, and more recently he co-authored another book on this and the remarkably similar Wood Duck in 1996. In parallel Sir Christopher Lever has written a number of books on the naturalised animals and birds of the world, and the Mandarin adorned the cover of his authoritative Naturalised Birds of the World (Poyser, 2005). This new Poyser monograph brings our knowledge of the species up to date.
The author’s research has been exhaustive and initially he focuses on the species’ native range in Asia, particularly in China, Japan and Russia, but also India, Taiwan and Myanmar. Much of the book focuses in great detail on the UK population by county. Birds have also been introduced successfully into the United States where there are small pockets in places such as California, while in Australia, New Zealand and Tahiti the species has not managed to get a toe-hold. Each of these populations is described in great detail.
Another chapter looks at conservation issues in the Far East where the future of the Mandarin is far from secure. Deforestation, pollution and shooting have all combined to reduce its numbers, and although measures to protect the species have been introduced in Japan and Russia, the importance our UK population may be of significance in the years ahead.
Other chapters explore the Mandarin’s annual life cycle and its feeding preferences. There is also a summary of some interesting associations between the species and Oriental legend and a brief account of the closely related Wood Duck of North America. Appendices covering topics such as classification, status, nestboxes, and trapping and ringing are also included.
The book is well-illustrated by 16 pages of photographs and attractive drawings by Katrina van Grouw, but in common with all Poyser monographs it is a heavyweight and authoritative production and therefore not a light read.