Mandarin Duck Ducks   -   [family Anatidae ]
"Duck" is a rather imprecise term covering a number of subfamilies of the water bird family Anatidae - basically all those that are not either geese (subfamily Anserinae tribe Anserini) or swans (subfamily Anserinae genus Cygnus). The photo is of a Mandarin Duck, generally raised as a decorative rather than for food.   Photo © i0033 .

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General and History

It's hard to generalize about ducks in general - except that some of the many species populate every continent except Antarctica, and get pretty close to there too. For domestic ducks, though, it's easier to generalize - because all except the Muscovy were developed from the wild Mallard, regardless of current size, shape, color or disposition.

Male ducks are often decked out in very fancy colors, but females are, due to their nest tending needs, dressed in dull brown camouflage. Male ducks take no part in hatching eggs or tending the young.

Types, Sizes & Uses

Mallard   -   [Wild Duck, Anas platyrhynchos] Mallard Duck

Nearly all domestic ducks were derived from the wild Mallard, but unlike them the Mallard is relatively small (not much over 2-1/2 pounds) and a strong flyer. The photo shows the typical male coloration. There has recently been some effort to farm mallards, but the commercial potential is still unknown and depends on public acceptance. Will people (mainly chefs) pay more for wilder tasting duck?   Photo © i0036.

White Pekin Duck - Long Island Duck   -   [Anas platyrhynchos domestica]
Pekin Duck

This duck, developed in China, accounts for about 95% of the ducks eaten in North America. They are also known as Long Island Ducks because some were brought there from China in 1873 to establish commercial duck farms. Flavor is mild and flesh is relatively low in fat. They are killed at about 7 weeks when they weigh about 7 pounds. White ducks are preferred for meat (as are white chickens) because they look clean after plucking.

European Pekins are rather different from the North American variety and walk quite upright, though not as upright as an Indian Runner.   Photo © i0035.

Muscovy Duck   -   [Cairina moschata]
Muskovy Duck

Native to Brazil, this is the only domesticated duck that isn't derived from Mallard stock. Muskovys account for about 2% to 3% of the North American market. They are sold mainly into the restaurant trade where their large breasts are appreciated. Their meat is relatively low in fat and has been described as more like veal than like poultry. Muscovy livers are also used to make foie gras.

These are large ducks with the males reaching over 15 pounds and females can be as heavy as 9 pounds. They are generally killed at 11 weeks when the breasts have reached a mature size. The individual in the photo has a black face but they more commonly have red faces. Muscovys don't swim much because they have deficient oil glands, but they can fly, and are the only domestic duck that roosts on branches at night like a chicken.   Photo © i0034.

Rouen Duck   -   [Giant Mallard]
Rouen Hen This duck looks very much like a Mallard that's just way too fat to fly (see Mallard above for male coloration). Show birds grow as large as 12 pounds but production varieties are considerably smaller. They are highly thought of as meat ducks in Europe so some are grown in North America, mainly for the restaurant trade. Its popularity is increasing because its meat is even less fatty than that of the Pekin, but it is a relatively expensive duck to grow compared to the Pekin.   Photo © i0032.

Indian Runner Duck
Runner Ducks Developed in India, this is the premier egg laying duck. A hen will lay around 300 eggs a year, twice what most ducks lay, and has little interest in hatching them. Runners are easily recognizable on land because they stand almost straight upright. They have been described as looking like a bowling pin with feet, but they look much more normal floating.

The photo specimens are the "fawn and white" variety, but there are white and penciled (whatever that means) varieties. It's main competitor is the related Khaki Campbell which is an even better egg layer but is still not common. Thin and tough, runners are not desirable as meat ducks.   Photo by Bjoern Clauss distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic.

Duck Eggs

Duck Eggs Duck Eggs - Raw:   These are now produced in quantity in California and are in good supply in the Asian markets. When buying, just make sure you're getting raw eggs, not salted - read the label. Details and Cooking.

Salted Eggs Duck Eggs - Salted:   These are now produced in quantity in California and in good supply in the Asian markets. When buying, just make sure you're getting salted eggs, not raw - read the label. Some producers dye the salted eggs red or package them in red shrink-wrap - but others don't. Details and Cooking.

Preserved Eggs Duck Eggs - Preserved:   The mysterious amber jell in some Chinese pastries many Americans have encountered without knowing what it was. Fourty years ago these were shipped over her in great ceramic jars packed in rice straw and ashes, but are today sent over by the container load, cleaned and put up in foam plastic trays. Details and Cooking.

Feathered Egg Duck Eggs - Feathered:   You'd probably really rather not know, but these are eggs incubated 16 days to develop the embryo. Much eaten as an "appetizer" in China, Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia. They are now produced in California to meet demand from our Asian communities and can be ordered on-line. They are available over the counter at the San Gabriel Superstore in San Gabriel, CA.   Details and Cooking.

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©Andrew Grygus - agryg@clovegarden.com - Photos on this page not otherwise credited are © cg1 - Linking to and non-commercial use of this page permitted