Except for one specimen shot by Mr. A. Stevens on the Dibru River in Assam, and recorded by Mr. E. C.S. Baker in his book on Indian Ducks, no Indian-killed example of this beautiful East Asiatic duck is on record, though there is evidence that others have been seen, and even in one case shot. These were all females like the one preserved, or males either in young or undress plumage, and therefore in plumage closely resembling that of the female; and in this species the resemblance is extraordinarily close in such specimens.
Thus the mandarin in India has so far appeared as a small brown duck, rather less in size than a wigeon, with a long tail for a duck, pointed wings with pinion-quills edged with silver-grey and tipped with steel-blue, and a very small beak and large eyes. The upper-parts have no markings of any sort, and the abdomen is pure white, but the breast and sides are mottled with brown and buff. The head is greyish and crested, the male having more grey tint and less crest than the female, which also has a narrow white ring round the eyes. The male's feet are orange, the female's olive.
In full plumage the drake is well known to everyone who takes any interest in waterfowl ; the orange-chestnut fans in his wings are unique, and one of these feathers would be enough as a record of the species ; he also has an orange ruff of hackles, and an enormous crest of copper, green, and white, besides showing many other sharply contrasted colours in his plumage, and possessing a bill of the brightest pink-red or cerise. This duck is well known in captivity in India as well as in Europe, being exported from China. Here it breeds, as also in Japan and Amoorland; it nests in holes in trees, and spends much time in them, being a thorough wood-duck and a regular percher. The notes of the sexes are quaint; the drake snorts and the duck sneezes !
The mandarin is quick and active in its movements in walking, swimming, and flying; and, although feeding much on land, where it often grazes like a wigeon, or searches for acorns in woods, it nevertheless dives for food occasionally, and is more active under water than almost any surface duck. It is poor eating, and not a bird to shoot more specimens of than can be avoided, owing to its beauty and interesting habits.
It only goes in small flocks and does not seem to be an object of sport anywhere.