Many people remember childhood trips to a farm or arboretum where they were able to feed the ducks. Unfortunately, many times that food was bread and that is actually unhealthy for all ducks but especially to ducklings. Bread - especially white bread - has little nutritional value and if birds eat too much of it, they can develop nutritional deficits that can lead to health problems, specifically one called angel wing, which is a deformity of the wing. Corn, peas, or oats are a recommended alternative.
Scientific & Common Names
Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Chordata
Class - Aves
Order - Anseriformes
Family - Anatidae
Genus – Anas and Cairina
Species – Anas platyrhynchos and Cairina moschata
Common Names – Duck, Domestic Mallard Duck, Muscovy Duck, Barnyard Duck, Peking Duck, American Pekin, White Pekin, Long Island Duck
The iconic image of a barnyard duck in America is actually that of a Peking or Pekin duck, which is by far the most popular type of duck in the United States. They are full bodied and have bright white feathers and a yellow or orange bill and feet. Hatchlings are bright yellow with touches of tan on their feather tips. Their feet, shanks, and bill are orange like the adults.
American Peking ducks mate year round and they lay anywhere from 140-210 white eggs per year which take 28 days to hatch. They are hatched with their yellow duckling feathers intact and are often considered to be one of the cutest baby birds in existence. They will grow their adult feathers in about 6-8 weeks and they are capable of laying eggs at only 24 weeks.
Ducklings take to water easily but they must be monitored since they do not produce enough preen oil to properly protect themselves from the water. Mother ducks will often hurry them out of the water and supplement their preen oil.
Most modern species of domesticated duck descended from mallards and they were first domesticated in Asia. Poultry were the last common farm animals to be domesticated. Mallards are believed to have evolved in Siberia and they were then introduced to other areas of the world. In popular culture, ducklings are mainly remembered for the story The Ugly Duckling (actually a swan) and for the floating ducklings in most children's bathtubs.
Domesticated ducks are found on nearly every traditional farm in the world and they are topped only by chicken and turkey in popularity. While they lack the popularity of chickens, ducks are still an extremely common animal.
- International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN)
- The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
- Cornell University, College of Veternary Medicine, Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences - Domestic Ducks by William F. Dean, Ph.D., and Tirath S. Sandhu, DVM, Ph.D.
- Animals as Domesticates: A World View through History, The Animal Turn by Juliet Clutton-Brock
- Domesticated: Evolution in a Man-Made World by Richard C. Francis