Mandarin

There’s a male Mandarin Duck, Aix galericulata, steaming towards me over the lake:

Mandarin Duck - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

It’s hard to imagine the evolutionary pressures which have led to such incredible plumage:

Mandarin Duck - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Given that it’s the males who have such stunning plumage, it’s likely that it’s selection of brightly coloured males by the females which is the cause:

Mandarin Duck - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

The females who’ve mated with spectacular males have obviously had much greater chance of having successful ducklings who have also selected or been selected for generations:

Mandarin Duck - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Bright feathers take an enormous amount of energy to create. The colours are produced by chemicals which take time and trouble to synthesise and need a lot of high quality food to create. A bright male means they are healthy and have had a good diet.

Mandarin Duck - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

The males will stay around only until the eggs hatch and then they will disappear for a summer-long male-only moulting party where they become drab and flightless for a while. They take no role as father to their ducklings and are simply flashy sperm donors.

Mandarin Duck - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

But how fabulously flashy they are.

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