Mixed Up Ducks

Mixed up ducks in Germany (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

One of the challenges of city birding is identifying the mixed up ducks not found in any field guide. These “mutt ducks” are the hybrids of mallards paired with escaped domestic ducks.

It’s easy for domestic ducks to hybridize with mallards because nearly all of them(*) are descended from mallards (Anas platyrhynchos).

Mallard cross with a domestic duck (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Mallards hybridize with wild ducks, too, as shown in this a mallard X gadwall mix.

Mallard X gadwall hybrid Brewer’s duck (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Some ornithologists worry that mallards will hybridize their closest relatives — American black ducks, Mexican ducks and mottled ducks — out of existence, as in this mallard X Mexican duck mix.

Mallard X Mexican duck hybrid (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

But perhaps they’re forgetting how recently those species evolved from mallards. The Mexican duck (Anas diazi) that occurs in Mexico and the U.S. Southwest was thought to be a subspecies of mallard until 1957.

Mallards are just working on creating new species. 😉

Read more about mixed up ducks in this vintage article: Ugly Ducks

(*) Some domestic ducks are descended from Muscovy ducks.

(photos from Wikimedia Commons; click the captions to see the originals)

2 thoughts on “Mixed Up Ducks

  1. Kate, reading the older “Ugly Ducks” post, mentioning oriole hybrids, jarred my memory about a male oriole sighting I had one spring that strongly resembled a Bullock’s (especially the eye stripe), yet, other markings didn’t quite fit the species i.d. Do you know of any confirmed hybrid oriole sightings in Western PA? Are there such things are “confirmed hybrid sightings?” Guessing not, can’t be verified by sight alone?

    This article (published just this week!) indicates we’re far from the “hybrid zone” in the Midwest?

    https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2020/08/baltimore-bullocks-orioles-will-retain-separate-identities

    1. I haven’t kept up to date on Oriole hybrids in western PA. Looks like you’ve found info about it that’s be to me.

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