HomeOutdoorDNA Testing Confirms First Ever Documented Leucistic Black Duck

DNA Testing Confirms First Ever Documented Leucistic Black Duck

DNA Testing Confirms First Ever Documented Leucistic Black Duck


Mike Wec was having a tricky morning.

The Massachusetts marsh he was looking on Dec. 15 had frozen over regardless of the wind, and breaking 75 yards of ice simply so he may paddle to his spot earned him sweat-soaked layers and a brand new leak in his waders. Wec had simply sufficient time to throw out his decoys — mallards to the fitting, black geese on the left — and get settled.

At authorized gentle, the 37-year-old observed just a few geese within the distance and gave a pair quacks. Three birds turned his manner, then cut up at his greeting name, with a pair of mallards breaking proper and the third committing.

“It appeared like a hen mallard or a hen black duck, and her stomach was tannish,” says Wec, who often expects a mixture of mallards, black geese, and some geese that point of 12 months. “She cupped her wings and got here into the black duck decoys.”

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He shot as soon as and dropped the duck on the water. Assured it wasn’t going wherever, he waited and killed the following single that got here in, a drake black duck. Then he acquired into his kayak.

“I paddled about 20 yards previous the primary duck and glanced at it and I’m like ‘Wow that may be a gentle coloured duck.’ It flew like a mallard and appeared like a mallard or a black duck, so I had a sense perhaps it was a farm-duck combined mallard. I picked up the black duck and got here again and picked up the [white] duck.”

Two American black ducks, one with mostly white feathers.
The leucistic black duck hen beside a pleasant drake black duck. Wec says the scale comparability between the 2 birds because it seems right here is true to life. Picture courtesy of Mike Wec

Wec went on to shoot a greenhead and a woodie — one other shock given the lateness of the season. Lastly, he shot a banded greenhead and known as it a morning, only one chicken wanting his restrict.

“As I’m sitting there,” says Wec, “I’m additionally pondering, ‘What do I’ve right here and I’m I authorized?’” 

Wec put the banded drake and what he considered the “blond mallard” on the passenger seat and known as his spouse, Ashley Wec.

“I knew I had one thing particular and I knew I needed to wrap it and put it within the freezer,” says Wec. “I‘m like, ‘I don’t know what that is, and I’ve been advised to mount so many birds earlier than and I haven’t. That is the chicken I’m gonna mount.’ So she’s like, ‘Properly can’t they DNA take a look at it?’ and I’m like, ‘I doubt it.’”

Mike Wec with two great ducks.
The geese that kicked off and concluded his hunt: a leucistic black duck and a banded greenhead. Picture courtesy of Mike Wec

Undeterred, Ashley carried out a fast Google search and turned up the College of Texas at El Paso’s duckDNA undertaking, a brand new pilot program for 2023 designed to gather genetic information on wild waterfowl. This system is especially within the westward unfold of game-farm mallard genes in wild duck populations. 

So, Wec reached out. And though duckDNA purposes have been closed on the time, the pictures of the blond duck have been intriguing sufficient to researchers that they despatched his taxidermist a vial for amassing a tissue pattern (on this case, from the tip of the duck’s tongue).

Now, about 5 months later, Wec has acquired the outcomes of the DNA take a look at. The white chicken was a hen, and 100% American black duck. In different phrases, there was no hint of game-farm mallard and even lineage from old-world geese launched from Europe years in the past. In keeping with this system and its associate, Geese Limitless, that is the primary verified occasion of a leucistic, totally wild American black duck.

Five ducks on a kayak, including a leucistic black duck.
comparability of the white black duck beside two greenheads, a drake black duck, and a hen woodie. Picture courtesy of Mike Wec

“This can be a enormous showcase of what duckDNA gives to hunters and scientists in cooperation at a degree we’ve by no means had earlier than,” Dr. Phil Lavretsky, who leads duckDNA, advised DU in an announcement. “No extra assumptions and biases, there is no such thing as a hiding DNA.”

Leucism is an inherited trait that ends in lack of pigmentation. In birds this may vary from only a few white feathers to all-white plumage, in keeping with DU. Leucistic geese retain regular eye colour and imaginative and prescient (not like albino birds). Beforehand hunters and even researchers have solely speculated that geese with the looks and coloration of Wec’s white duck have been leucistic mallards or wild-domestic hybrids.

The plumage of a leucistic black duck.
A detailed up of the duck’s plumage. Picture courtesy of Mike Wec
The head of a leucistic black duck.
A detailed up of the pinnacle. Picture courtesy of Mike Wec

In its first season, duckDNA examined 721 genetic samples from geese submitted by 309 hunters in 47 states. Evaluation of these samples revealed 19 totally different hybrid mixtures, together with the next hybrids:

  • Wild mallard x game-farm mallard
  • Wild mallard x American black duck
  • Wild mallard x American wigeon
  • Wild mallard x gadwall (known as Brewer’s geese, these are the results of a male gadwall breeding a feminine mallard)
  • Wild mallard x wooden duck
  • Florida mottled duck x wild mallard
  • Muscovy x wild mallard
  • Home goose x Canada goose

Researchers even recognized three-species hybrids, which have been the results of hybrid duck breeding with a species unrelated to both of its father or mother species. One triple hybrid included a duck with wild mallard, game-farm mallard, and Mexican duck genes. (Yow will discover the total listing of the 2023 to 2024 hybrids right here.)

A graph depicting mallard dna distribution.
This graph illustrates the relative distribution of pure wild mallards and wild x game-farm hybrids inside the pattern of “mallards” submitted to duckDNA through the 2023–24 pilot season. As a result of this information wasn’t obtained from a very random pattern of harvested geese, it’s thankfully not consultant of the bigger inhabitants of mallards within the U.S. Graph courtesy of duckDNA

“Analysis from the College of Texas at El Paso has revealed that over a century of game-farm mallard releases within the Atlantic Flyway has led to widespread hybridization with wild mallards,” studies DU. “Different research have uncovered potential variations in behavioral, physiological and ecological traits between game-farm hybrids and pure wild mallards, which can impression copy, actions and duck distributions throughout their vary.”

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This system has proved so fashionable with hunters (4,200 utilized final 12 months) that duckDNA caps its submissions every season. Hunters who’re desirous about collaborating in this system this duck season ought to apply at duckDNA’s web site.