Most of the ducklings we see in real life and on TV are yellow. But is that the case for all the ducklings? Are all ducklings yellow?
Why are ducklings yellow? Domesticated ducklings are yellow because of selective breeding. But, the truth is, not all duck species are born with yellow down. The most popular domesticated ducks are Pekin ducks and call ducks and their ducklings are indeed yellow. Another popular duck species, the mallard duck, which is their ancestor, has only partially yellow ducklings. The same goes for Muscovy ducklings and other wild duck species.
The reason we think that all ducklings are yellow is that it has been imprinted in our minds. We do not see the trees from the forest.
Ducklings from domesticated duck breeds turn from yellow-colored down, when born, into white-colored plumage. This is a direct result of selective breeding and specifically, the all-white plumage of domestic Pekin ducks is caused by a single recessive mutation to the MITF gene, which regulates melanin production.
How Do You Tell Ducklings Gender?
Baby ducks look almost the same and it can be surprisingly hard to figure out the duckling’s gender. The easiest method is to do it by the sound of their voice or quack. You’ll have to wait for the ducklings to be at least two weeks old to do this. Any earlier than that and their voices sound the same as well.
Now that they’re two weeks old, the female duckling’s quack will be like that stereotypical quack you hear in the cartoons and it will only start to be louder and balder. The male duckling’s voice will be less loud and more like a monotone grumbles than a quack.
Can Mallards Have Yellow Ducklings?
The Mallard duck species is the main ancestor of most breeds of domesticated ducks and their ducklings are only partially yellow, unlike their modern successors. Upon hatching, the plumage of the mallard duckling is yellow only on the underside and the face and black on the back, with some yellow spots, all the way to the top and back of the head.