Homepage article March 2008
Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata

Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata, Eungbong, Seoul, January 2008, Photo © Dr. Robin Newlin

The extraordinarily ornate Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata, a species commonly featured in art and celebrated as a symbol of loving fidelity, is confined as a wild species to East Asia. It presently has a total global population estimated optimistically at c. 65,500, divided into four rather enigmatic populations. One of these populations, containing only 5,000 individuals, is considered to breed in “East Asia” and to spend the non-breeding season in Korea (Wetlands International, 2006).

In Korea, it is typically a fairly shy species found locally on rivers in summer, and on migration and during winter on streams, rivers, and to a lesser extent on forest-edged reservoirs and even the sea (especially on Jeju Island, where possibly the world’s largest concentration, 2550, were counted at peak roosting on a small offshore island in 1999: Oh H-S and Chae H-Y, 1999). The species typically feeds on acorns e.g. of Quercus glauca (Kim B-S, 2001), but also occasionally takes animal matter, including small insects from the water surface, and apparently larvae by diving.

Easily disturbed, the Korean Mandarin Duck population is already considered by Wetlands International to be in decline, and is now threatened on the mainland by the Grand Canal Scheme, which as proposed will lead to a massive increase in disturbance and a very significant loss of both breeding and wintering habitat along the upper courses of South Korea’s main rivers such as the Nakdong and the Han.


  • Oh, H-S & H-Y Chae. 1999. Wintering Flock of the Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata) in Cheju Island, Republic of Korea. Japanese Journal of Ornithology 48: 161-163, 1999.
  • Kim, B-S. 2001. A Study on Wintering Ecology of Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata in Jeju Island. Thesis, Graduate School of Education, Cheju National University.
  • Wetlands International, 2006. Waterbird Population Estimates - Fourth Edition. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata, Photo © Tim Edelsten