Call Ducks: One Judge's Perspective
Ducks: One Judge’s Perspective
judging Calls in 1970 and it is amazing how they have changed in the time
between then and now. The number of Standard varieties has exploded. There are
now a dozen or so varieties in the ABA Standard with a strong likelihood that
more will be added in the next several years. Given the popularity of the Call,
those new varieties will mean even larger Call classes in the future.
not all Standard varieties of the Call are created equal. There is a wide
spectrum of stages of development as there is with any breed which is popular
enough to stimulate the creation and development of many new color varieties.
See the Old English and Wyandotte bantams as examples.
article, I will limit myself to just two varieties which are not only
established but are commonly seen at shows.
Call variety was, of course, the Gray which was developed well before the start
of the twentieth century for use as a live decoy for hunting purposes.
state of development of the Gray Call is quite advanced, at least in terms of
size and type. If I were to offer one criticism of the type, it would be to
caution breeders not to continue their pursuit of the ultimate Call head at the
expense of width of body at the shoulders and color. Body size is certainly no
problem in most Call classes. As a matter of fact, I suspect that the weights of
some females in particular are well below the 20 oz. level although since we do
not weigh entries that observation is more of an impression than a proven fact.
I do know as a breeder that ultra-small females often lay poorly or not at all
and that very small males frequently are not good breeders. As a result, I believe that we are heading in
the direction of having to breed from one group of birds and show another
concern, however with the Grays is in the area of color. The females in particular
typically lack defined penciling over the back (sometimes not even decent
lacing) and often are extremely poorly colored underneath in the breast and
rump areas. In fact, some females have lost even the semblance of good color
underneath. In addition, there is
occasionally a problem with loss of the brilliant metallic color in the wing
speculum in both sexes. In some birds the speculum tends to be gray rather than
the iridescent blue.
sometimes bill color issues in both sexes of the Grays. The lead colored bills
of some females is a serious issue because it represents a total departure from
the “dull orange with a dark saddle” specified by the Standard. In the male,
the presence of black (other than in the bean) is a concern but should only be
penalized heavily if the amount of black is significant ( 50% or more).
colored male birds including the Gray Call undergo an eclipse moult during the
summer which mutes the otherwise bright colors which they display most of the
year when they are in nuptial plumage. Most males are only in eclipse plumage
for a couple of months from late spring well into summer but some never really
emerge from it. By late September if a male is still in eclipse, I would
hesitate to place him highly for fear that he never really will be in full
nuptial plumage. Of course, that applies to Rouens, Gray Runners, and Mallards
are spared many color concerns that plague the parti- colored birds which is
one big reason why they are so popular. Bill color which is a pale yellow
rather than orange/ yellow is sometimes seen but even that is not too common. One
still sees black in the bill of females which is a defect especially common in
older females. Black in the bill of a male is, of course, a disqualification.
however, some problems which are apparent in the Whites as well as with the
other varieties of Calls. Eye size is more noticeable in a White than with
other, darker colors of Calls because it is so obvious. Calls are supposed to
have large eyes. When a White Call does
not, it is noticed even if the observer does not realize that the eye isn’t
right. He/she just realizes that something is not quite right. Calls, unlike
most types of poultry, do not show advanced age as quickly or as obviously as
other types. If well cared for, they may
be successfully shown for 4-5 years or more. The one fairly reliable clue of
advanced age older Calls may offer is eyes that do not appear as large or as
bright as they should be. The size of eye is equally important in other
varieties of Call. It is just not as obvious as it is in Whites.
in Whites seems to be following the same trend as are the Grays with females in
particular in danger of becoming too small for reliable reproduction. Of
course, many judges do not see that as their problem because 1) weights cannot
be quantified and 2) it is not the judge’s job to project future reproductive
capabilities unless a specific characteristic is discussed among the general or
breed specific defects or disqualifications. Often breeders who go to extremes
see their lines decline because of breeding problems caused by those extremes in size or type.
Lack of fertility and difficulty in getting decent hatches have a way of
solving some breeding concerns by putting such lines "out of business".
Next time: Pastel and Butterscotch
Originally published: 11-15-2014
Last updated: 11-16-2014