The Mandarin Duck is a medium-sized perching duck, closely related to the North American Wood Duck. It is 50 cm long with a 75 cm wingspan.
The adult male is a striking and unmistakable bird. It has a red bill, large white crescent above the eye and reddish face and whiskers. The breast is purple with two vertical white bars, and the flanks ruddy, with two orange sails at the back. The female is similar to female Wood Duck, with a white eye-ring and stripe running back from the eye, but is paler below, has a small white flank stripe, and a pale tip to its bill.
Unlike other species of ducks, most Mandarin drakes reunite with the females they mated with along with their offsprings after the eggs have hatched and even share scout duties in watching the ducklings closely. However, even with both parents securing the ducklings, most of them do not survive to adulthood.