Ducks: Bantam and Call Ducks

Black East Indian

First Standardized in Britain in 1865, the Black East Indian Duck shares its colour with the North American Cayuga. This bantam duck was alleged to have been imported to Britain by the Earl of Derby in about 1850. However, evidence suggests that it had been already in the possession of the London Zoological Society since 1831, the same year that the 13th Earl of Derby was elected President of the ZSL. At this time it was known as the “Buenos Ayres” duck, but there seems to be no evidence that South America or the East Indies were the places of origin. It has been known as “Labrador”, “Brazilian”, “Buenos Aires” and eventually “Black East Indie”, the former being perhaps the most appropriate geographically. There is speculation that the black gene may have arrived via a close relative of the northern mallard, the American black duck (Anas rubripes). This is the bold assertion of early historians of the Cayuga, and it seems equally applicable to the Black East Indian.  The drakes tend to retain their black plumage but the females develop patches of white as they get older. Impure black birds can show elements of brown pencilling, especially under the wings and throat.

Black East Indian

Call

While known as Call Ducks nowadays they have been referred to as Decoys or Coys in the past. Francis Willughby who toured the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Italy between 1663 and 1666 observed how wildfowlers in Holland fitted ponds with channels and nets prior to stocking them with Coy ducks to entice and entrap wildfowl. He noticed that some Coy Ducks were free winged, but others were pinioned. A painting by Melchior d’Hondecoeter (1635-1695), featuring what appears to be, well grown Call ducklings in the foreground, seems to back this evidence that they existed in Holland in the 17th Century.

Trapping wildfowl went on in Britain also, with wildfowlers deploying tame or semi-tame ducks to entice their wild relatives. Rev. Edmund Saul Dixon M.A. revealed in his book “Ornamental and Domestic Poultry”, written in 1848, that a much smaller race of white ducks had been imported from Holland and that their chief merit, indicated by the title Call Duck, consisted in their incessant loquacity. He went on to state that the management of decoys was as well understood in Norfolk as anywhere and that the trained Decoy ducks there resembled the wild Mallard. While these wild coloured traitors aroused no suspicion the imported conspicuous Dutchmen excited fatal attention and curiosity. The white Call Ducks had a yellow orange bill unlike the Aylesbury’s, which was flesh coloured. Harrison Weir’s “Our Poultry” published in 1902, in quoting from Johnson’s Dictionary, i.e. “To decoy, v.a. (from Koey, Dutch, a cage), to entrap, to draw into”, aptly described why these diminutive ducks were employed. When the first “Standard of Excellence in Exhibition Poultry” was compiled in 1865 two colour varieties of Calls were standardised, the White and the Grey. (The latter becoming known as the “Brown” before being largely termed “Mallard” at the present time.)

By the mid 1880’s, Mandarins (Aix galericulata) and Carolinas (Aix sponsa) had become more popular with exhibitors and Calls were relegated to just the odd exhibit or two being shown in Ornamental duck or drake classes. This state of affairs lasted for over a century until the Call’s popularity really took off and 300 + Call Ducks could been seen at larger shows, which is the case today. From 1971 onwards, additional colour varieties have been standardised.

Call

Silver Appleyard Miniature

Developed in the 1980s and shown at the first BWA Championship Waterfowl Exhibition of 1987 by Tom Bartlett of Folly Farm, this Bantam Duck is a miniature version of the original Silver Appleyard produced by Reginald Appleyard in the mid twentieth century. The Miniature, first Standardized in 1997, is roughly a third of the weight of the original, large breed.

Silver Appleyard Miniature

Silver Bantam

This bantam breed was formerly known as the Silver Appleyard Bantam. It was produced by Reginald Appleyard from a cross between a small Khaki Campbell duck and a white Call drake in the 1940s. The Silver Bantam does not have the same colour genes as the large Silver Appleyard, hence the change of name when the Miniature Appleyard was Standardized in 1997. The Bantam is very similar to the Abacot Ranger, which was also developed from Khaki Campbells and crossed to a white drake. In this way, the dusky mallard genes were retained and the hidden harlequin-phase genes were revealed.

Silver Bantam