History of Call Ducks
Modern Call Ducks are some of the most popular and sought after ornamental duck breeds in the United States, and they are also widely popular across the UK and other European countries. The short billed “bantam” duck breed usually weighs in around 1.5 pounds or less, and has a friendly domestic demeanor that is enjoyed by hobby farmers, 4-H members, and duck enthusiast worldwide. But they weren’t always just for show.
It is unknown where the genetics for these dwarf breeds actually originated, however, Call ducks were first documented in the Netherlands around 16th century. They were originally called Coy ducks, coming from the Dutch word ‘de kooi’ (decoy), meaning ‘trap’. Though there are conflicting reports as to how often they were actually used as decoy ducks or traps, the story is that they were used by commercial duck meat hunters to lure in wild ducks with their frequent calling. In order to be effective as decoy ducks, Calls were originally developed and bred for a few critical characteristics: size and voice. Since they were used by hunters moving from location to location in set their traps, smaller birds were of course ideal for transportation. Their voice was also essential in luring in the Wild Mallards collected for meat – the louder and more talkative, the better.
The method was to place and feed the small and gregarious Coy Ducks, or Call Ducks at the end of a long elaborate trap placed at the end of a pond or stream. Wild ducks would then be drawn in by the duck calls until they were trapped as the netting closed behind them. Imagine a long tunnel of netting draped over arching frames running along a small river or stream that can simply be closed off at the end after a sufficient number of ducks have gathered.
The Call Duck Standard
As the breeding of ducks and other domestic fowl was growing in popularity in Great Britain, the Call was standardized in 1865, and recognized both White and Grey coloration. For novices, when referring to waterfowl, Grey or Gray usually resembles a Mallard or Rouen feather pattern.
The notable difference between Call Ducks and Standard Duck breeds is of course their small, or ‘bantam’, size. However, they should also have a full and round forehead atop a proportionally shorter and broader bill.
Where Can I Find Call Ducks?
Call duck popularity has risen drastically among rare and ornamental duck breeders in the past decade. They are often difficult to find, and even more difficult to ship as baby ducklings. For these reasons, you will have the best luck finding them as adult breeding pairs sold by rare duck breeders or at a local poultry show or fair.
There are a few hatcheries that do successfully hatch and ship day old call ducklings, Johnson’s Waterfowl in Middle River, Minnesota. Of the many varieties of call ducklings that are now available, the most popular of those are the Blue, Black, White, Pastel, Snowy, Gray (Mallard), Penciled, and Khaki. Call Ducks have a short hatching season, and they are incredibly popular, so if you’re looking to raise Call Ducklings this Spring, be sure to check current availability with eFowl.