Mandarin duck spotted in Upper Assam; all you need to know about ‘most beautiful duck in the world’

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February 14, 2021 2:36 PM

Recently, a rare sight was noticed by people where they witnessed a spectacular and rare Mandarin duck floating in the Maguri-Motapung beel (or wetland) of Assam’s Tinsukia district.

The Mandarin duck was seen last and it has been three days that there have not been any sightings. Image: IE/ Gunjan Gogoi

Recently, a rare sight was noticed by people where they witnessed a spectacular and rare Mandarin duck floating in the Maguri-Motapung beel (or wetland) of Assam’s Tinsukia district. The duck was first seen by Madhab Gogoi, a Tinsukia-based birder and tour guide on February 8 and gained a lot of buzz. According to a report by The Indian Express citing Binanda Hatiboruah, a bird guide, the duck was last sighted around the spot a century ago in 1902 and just a mere sight of the duck cheered Hatiboruah up.

It is to note that the Mandarin duck is considered the most beautiful duck in the world. It was spotted for the first time by a Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist Carl Linnaeus in 1758. The report said that the bird can be described as a “small-exotic looking bird” which can be seen in East Asia. The colours are majestic and this is why the duck can be spotted from a distance. The one seen in Assam’s wetlands was a male duck, which according to the report was evident as the male species are more colourful when compared to the females. The duck has “big orangey ‘sail fins’ on the back, streaked orangey cheeks, and a small red bill with a whitish tip” whereas the female counterpart has narrow white spectacles on with a grey head.

These migratory ducks are usually bred in Korea, Japan, Russia, along with northeastern parts of China. However, an established population of the duck can be found in Western Europe and America as well. Back in 2018, a Mandarin duck was spotted in a pond in New York City’s Central Park which became the talk of the town among local residents. To be sure, India does not fall on the migratory route for these ducks and there have barely been any sightings of Mandarin ducks in India. In 1902, one was seen in the Dibru river in the Rongagora area in Tinsukia.

Citing ornithologist Dr Anwaruddin Choudhury, a former joint secretary of the forest department, the report noted that the species of this duck is not a globally threatened but spotting one is significant due to “rare appearances.” Hatiboruah highlighted this as a “historical sighting” considering there is no surety as to when this duck can be spotted again. Usually, a migration route is followed during the migration season but it is also not uncommon for some to stray away from the path. And this can be the reason India witnessed the sighting of Mandarian duck this month at Maguri beel.

On Wednesday, the Mandarin duck was seen last and it has been three days that there have not been any sightings. It is likely that the duck moved away from Maguri beel now.

Meanwhile, the Maguri Motapung wetland is considered as an Important Bird Area and the complete ecosystem there- grassland and wetland – has been home to as many as 304 bird species, including “a number of endemic ones like Black-breasted parrotbill and Marsh babbler.”

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