Years ago, Charlie Moores coined the colorful term “manky mallard” to describe the motley menagerie of feral and domestic mallards (If you’re wondering, manky means many things in British parlance from dirty and disgusting to inferior and worthless.) Here at 10,000 Birds, we’ve always celebrated odd ducks, which means manky mallards feel right at home!
How varied are the forms of Anas platyrhynchos? You’d be surprised. You might first consider the mallard complex and the unseemly hullabaloo of hybrid mallards. However, the malleability of the mallard gene really shines through the dazzling diversity of domestic mallards…
What are the different breeds of domestic duck?
Abacot Ranger or Streicher ducks are often referred to as hooded rangers because of the buff feathering of the hen’s head. The ranger drake sports a brown cowl as well as a dappled chestnut chest. Both have white bodies.
Ancona ducks are among the mankiest of the domestic ducks with mottled monochromatic plumage. Anconas forage actively despite their flightlessness.
The Aylesbury duck was the original white farm duck of Europe, before the Pekin toppled it from its lofty perch. Aylesbury birds are pure white with orange legs, but distinguished from Pekins by their pink bills.
BUFF ORPINGTON or BUFF
Buff Orpington ducks are drab ducks named for the buffy coloration of the females. The male has a brown hood and buff body. Buff Orpington also describes a breed of barnyard chicken.
female Buff Orpington in Salida, CO © Miles Groth
Probable Buff Orpington hen flanked by a Ganky Goose and Duclair drake
Manky mixed flock in NY © Jay Richmond
Call ducks are quite compact, smaller than any other domestic and wild mallards. Thanks to their modest proportions, these mini-mallards are better flyers than other mankies.
The Cayuga duck takes the striking metallic green plumage of a wild mallard drake’s cowl and wears it from tip to tail. In fact, Cayuga males and females both flaunt this dramatic feathering. Interestingly, the entire breed of black ducks, as Cayugas are called, can be traced to a single pair raised in Duchess County, NY.
Duclair ducks are classic manky Mallards with green heads, white bibs, and solid brown, black, or even blue-gray bodies. The distinction between Duclairs and the rarer Pommeranians is lost on me.
Brownie and Greenie, probably an Abacot Ranger and a Duclair © Bonnie Shulman
INDIAN RUNNERS or RUNNERS
Indian Runners appear attenuated, as if someone stretched a regular duck on a rack. These upright feathered bowling pins come in a variety of colors.
These lovelies look like Black Indian Runner x Cayuga. Photo © Karen Davis
Khaki Campbell ducks, named for both their primary color and the original breeder, bear a superficial resemblance to wild Mallards. However, their oddly-shaped, heavy bodies and drab plumage give them away. Females have distinctive dark heads and bills.
Khaki Campbell Hen in Central Park © Jay Richmond
Magpie ducks , much like actual magpies, make the scene in brilliant black and white, although variations exisit. Magpies are distinguished from Anconas by their more predictable patterning, which includes a smart black tonsure. Magpie ducks don’t bulk up as much as many domestic breeds do.
Magpie duck © Meredith Matthews
Pekin ducks embody exactly what most people envision as the classic domesticated duck. These barnyard beauties have large pure white bodies with orange bills and feet.
Rouens look a lot like Mallards stuffed with more Mallards, which is to say they are much heavier than their wild kin. In fact, most Rouens can barely fly
This photo © Mia McPherson of on the wing photography (used with permission) shows how a Rouen differs subtly from a wild Mallard: look for overall beefiness, a sloping forehead, and almost perfect plumage!
Saxony duck drakes look like large, faded wild Mallards but the females and young are far more fetching in their fawn-colored plumage with white facial markings.
Sexy Saxony hen from the Grantham Canal at West Bridgford, Nottingham © Mike Fuller
Looks like a Saxony hen © Corey Finger
Swedish ducks are heavy bodied, bibbed birds that appear in different shades of blue, gray, and black.
Black Swedish Duck at South River in Marshfield, MA © Mary Rittal
ARE CRESTED DUCKS A SEPARATE BREED?
One of the most fascinating finds when watching domestic ducks is the odd duck flaunting what appears to be a large powder puff, cotton ball, or afro on its head. These are called Crested Ducks and are sometimes considered their own manky breed. However, the crest is actually the manifestation of a mutation; the crest is formed from fatty tissue that seeps through a gap in the bird’s deformed skull. Sounds grisly, but the mutation clearly isn’t fatal, though it can lead to health and balance issues. At least it looks cool!
I spotted this Crested Blue Swedish duck at Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area in Los Angeles.
Council Bluffs, Iowa must have something funny in its water, if these ducks are any indication:
Pekins, Crested Pekins, and Khaki Campbell © Dan Hudson
Try to guess the breeds of the manky procession below. Scroll over the photo for the ID:
IS IT MANKY?
Just because a duck looks odd doesn’t mean it’s manky.
This Mallard, captured by Mike Fuller at the Arundel Wetland Centre in the UK, flaunts a bib. However, the bib alone doesn’t make the duck domestic as bibs do occur very rarely in wild Mallards. On the other hand, the drake’s bulk suggest a certain degree of mankiness.
This striking female Mallard, snapped by Renee R at Richfield Lake in Richfield, MN, certainly stands out. But is she manky? She’s probably just leucistic, which means she has reduced pigmentation.
The faded fellow above, photographed by Corey, is a wild Mallard enduring a total eclipse of the plumage. Eclipse plumage is a phenomenon mostly associated with male ducks wherein they moult into a dull, female-like plumage once the breeding season is over.
ARE DUCKS BORN MANKY?
Manky mallards are most certainly born that way, as mankiness manifests from the breeding and interbreeding of domestic mallards. If you’re looking for proof, feast your eyes on Corey’s analysis of Mallard Ducklings: Manky and Not.
IS IT EVEN A MALLARD?
Not every odd duck at your local lake deserves to be dubbed manky. Some of these weird waterfowl aren’t even Mallards…
If you see a duck like this one I captured many years ago in New York’s Central Park, you’ve encountered not a Mallard, but a domestic Muscovy Duck. Manky Muscovies are another story entirely!
*** Have you seen any manky mallards lately? ***
If you have great photos of manky mallards you’d like us to add to this gallery, send them to mike AT 10000birds DOT com!