PINTAIL-HYBRID CROSS (see photo)

The first to write about a hybrid that I know of was John Jame Audubon who painted a gadwall-mallard cross in 1822. At the time, he believed it to be a representative of a separate species. “No other individuals of the species were in sight at the time. All my efforts to procure another have been ineffectual,”  he wrote. It comes as no surprise that Audubon never found a second hybrid duck as the feat is exceedingly rare. For a waterfowler to kill one, is, perhaps, the highlight of his waterfowling lifetime–a point of pride!

Most duck hybrids in North America are “mallard plus anything,” according to waterfowl geneticist Dr. Phil Lavretsky, of the Population and Evolutionary Genetics Lab at The University of Texas-El Paso, aka Lavretsky Lab. Lavretsky. Adaptable generalists, mallards nest almost everywhere, giving them plenty of opportunity to interbreed with other species. Paired mallards will step out for some extra pair copulation at times, and “unwed” mallard drakes, as Lavretsky calls them, will mate with whatever duck they can at the end of the breeding season. Mallards breed with many puddle duck species, and some mallard-diver crosses have been recorded.

NOW WATERFOWLER: Do you know that a duck can mate with a chicken? I can’t list all of the reports that verify this but this one is the earliest that I know of.

The German physician Christian Franz Paullini (1686) communicated an abridgement of a manuscript compilation of curiosities collected by the monks Isibordus von Amelunxen and Alexander Insulanus at the Imperial Abbey of Corvey around 1200 A.D. In Observation XXXVI (Paullini 1686, p. 204) of that compilation Insulanus states that in the year 1176, at Blankenau, a town near the abbey, that “Our estate manager reared a drake who frequently mounted hens. This bird, together with one of the hens, produced some chicks who were truly part chicken, but who had the bill and feet of a duck. They were lovely, amphibious little monsters.”