Why are Ducklings Yellow?
When we think of ducklings, most of us imagine a small creature with yellow fuzz all over its body. But just because ducklings are yellow in the common consciousness, it doesn’t mean all ducklings are yellow. In actuality, yellow ducklings are the odd ones out.
In the wild, all-yellow ducklings are not common at all, and other color patterns are far more dominant.
So, in this article, I will examine why some ducklings are yellow, while others are not, and how long do yellow ducklings stay that way?
Duckling Colors and Patterns
If you look at ducklings in ponds or lakes, you’ll notice that they have different color patterns than just yellow.
Wild ducklings can be brown, dark gray, or other dull colors. Although they can also have some yellow markings, these too are usually a duller yellow, not the bright yellow our minds evoke when we think of ducklings.
The color variations are determined by breed, genetics, mutations, and the presence of various pigments or the lack of these pigments.
Why Some Ducklings are Yellow?
The ducklings that are bright yellow are usually domesticated ducks. A couple of domesticated duck breeds produce yellow ducks.
The yellow is caused by the presence of a yellow pigment that causes the plumage to turn yellow.
As they mature and grow adult feathers, yellow ducklings will turn white or a different color depending on the breed of the duck.
Duck Breeds with Yellow Ducklings
As I mentioned, yellow ducklings are rare in the wild, and most yellow ducklings are produced by several domesticated duck breeds.
Here are the duck breeds with yellow ducklings:
– American Pekin
A popular breed of domesticated duck, the American Pekin originated from China and was introduced into the US in 1872.
American Pekin ducks have bright yellow fuzz when they hatch, but with time the fuzz is replaced by creamy white feathers.
This duck breed is one of the most recognizable breeds. They have a good temperament and can even make good pets.
They’re known for their large size, white feathers, as well as their orange bill and orange legs.
The American Pekin duck is heavily farmed all around the world, and it may be single-handedly responsible for the misconception that all ducklings are yellow.
– German Pekin
Another duck breed that produces yellow ducklings is the German Pekin, which has a common heritage with the American Pekin.
Resulting from the crossbreeding with other white ducks from Japan, the German Pekin ducklings are not as bright of a yellow as its American counterparts.
Plus, as the German Pekin ducklings mature, their plumage doesn’t turn creamy white, but will have a yellow tint instead.
– Call Ducks
Believed to originate from the Netherlands, Call Ducks – White Call Duck and the Snow Call Duck ones, in particular – are another breed that produces the beloved yellow ducklings we all seem to admire.
They’re the smallest breed of domestic duck, weighing just a kilo (2.2 lbs), an aspect which made this duck the perfect decoy to attract larger ducks for hunters to shoot.
Apart from its role as a decoy, Call Ducks can make a perfect companion for kids, or can be kept simply as a decorative bird.
What Ducklings are Not Yellow?
Now that you know that only a handful of duck breeds have yellow ducklings, let’s see some common examples of duck breeds whose ducklings aren’t yellow:
A large duck breed that’s more widespread in South America, the Muscovy features a light head and neck and a dark colored body that’s often a glossy black, or black with a green iridescent back. The drake of this breed has pronounced caruncles at the base of the bill.
The ducklings of this breed do feature some yellow; however, they also feature other colors mixed in like brown, gray, or black.
Native to the United States, Mallard ducks can be found in many other parts of the world due to their wide global distribution.
Drakes of this breed feature a green head, the iconic white collar or neck ring that makes this breed instantly recognizable.
The breast is brown with a purple tinge, while the wings are gray-brown. The belly is pale gray. Ducklings feature some yellow with lots of gray or black mixed into it.
– American Wigeon
As far as color patterns go, the American Wigeon is quite exquisite – the head features a glossy green patch behind the eye, contrasted by a white cap.
This breed has a cinnamon body, a white belly, and a pale blue bill with a black tip. Ducklings of the breed are gray with rusty yellow plumage.
– Northern Shoveler
Another breed that has ducklings that are not yellow is the Northern Shoveler. Ducklings of the Northern Shoveler are brown.
The adult drake features a large black spatulate bill, a black head with green iridescent feathers, a white breast and a rusty brown belly.
The female is similar to the female mallard in that it features drab mottled brown plumage, but it’s easily distinguished by its large bill.
How Long do Ducklings Stay Yellow?
Ducklings below 3 weeks old are covered in fuzz and will only start developing feathers between 3-5 weeks.
This is also the time when their plumage starts changing into the adult colors. By 6 weeks old, ducklings are supposed to lose the fuzz and grow into their feathers.
Therefore, ducklings will stay yellow only until they grow out their adult feathers, which will happen around the time they are 6 weeks old.
Not only that not all ducklings are yellow, only a few domesticated duck breeds produce completely yellow ducklings.
Most ducklings of other duck breeds are gray, brown, or black with only a little yellow mixed into the plumage.
Ducklings don’t keep the colors that they start out with. They will change their colors as soon as they start to grow their feathers and lose their fuzz.
As you’ve seen from my presentation of the various duck breeds, there’s a lot of variety in the color patterns of the plumage when it comes to ducks.