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Basics of Keeping Waterfowl

  1. Welsh Harlequin Duck
  2. The Muscovy: Not Just Another Pretty Face
  3. So.. What About the Mallard?
  4. Calls: One Judge's Perspective Part 2
  5. One Judge's Perspective: Snowy Calls
  6. Standard Description for the Butterscotch Call
  7. Call Ducks: One Judge's Perspective
  8. Evaluating the Black East Indie in the Showroom
  9. A Brief History of the Call- from My Perspective
  10. New- Judging Black Ducks
  11. Book Review: British Waterfowl Standard
  12. Waterfowl and West Nile Virus- Updated
  13. New-What You Need to Know About Moulting in Waterfowl
  14. What Every 4Her Should Know About Getting Started in Waterfowl
  15. Judging Waterfowl in the U.K.
  16. Revised Waterfowl Housing Requirements
  17. The Chiloe Wigeon
  18. Calls and East Indies: What You Should Know Before You Buy
  19. Album of Exhibition Waterfowl
  20. Common Flaws in Popular Breeds of Exhibition Ducks
  21. Waterfowl Ailments and Treatments
  22. Raising Ducklings and Goslings Step-By-Step
  23. More Frequently Asked Questions About Keeping Waterfowl
  24. Book Review
  25. Frequently Asked Questions About Getting Started in Waterfowl
  26. Feeding Waterfowl
  27. The Importance of Oyster Shell and Grit for Waterfowl
  28. Conditioning Calls and East Indies for the Showroom

Welsh Harlequin Duck

I have admired the Welsh Harlequin Duck ever since I first saw them at Dave Holderread’s place in Oregon well over a decade ago. I found them to be both beautiful and appealing from a practical point of view since they are excellent producers of large numbers of white shelled eggs and high quality meat. An active breed, they would seem to be an excellent candidate for the small homestead given their excellent foraging habits and ability to garner a large percentage of their living if allowed on quality pasture.

The Welsh Harlequins are reported to be a sport of purebred Khaki Campbell ducks which were developed by Leslie Bonnet of Wales in the U.K. during the nineteen sixties. That would certainly account for their reputation for producing from 240-330 eggs per year when well managed.

The Harlequins were imported into the U. S. in 1980. The birds are standardized in the 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 pound range and breeding stock should be selected to stay in that weight range so as not to jeopardize the dual qualities for which they are prized. To that end, Welsh Harlequins were designed to weigh a full pound more than the Campbells from which they came. While there are other breeds with similar marking patterns, (think of the Snowys and Appleyards) the Welsh Harlequins are described as being genetically unique. Two color phases exist. There is a silver and a gold phase. The term color phase indicates that while the basic underlying markings are the same, there is an overlying color which differs. In the U.S., the Harlequin is only standardized in the silver color phase. Ironically, the original importation was of the gold color phase. If one raises a flock of either color for long, one is likely to get some ducklings of the other color phase. How did that happen? The group of breeders who banded together to organize the required Qualifying Meet prior to standardization decided to go with the silver color phase. Perhaps they felt that the silver phase was more striking with a greater amount of contrast. That only matters to the keeper if one plans to show ones Harlequins or plans to sell stock to those who would show them. If shown at even county fairs where the APA Standard is the guide, technically, a non-standard variety should not be placed any higher than best of variety. The accompanying photos of excellent quality are of Silver Harlequins compliments of Dave Holderread of Oregon.

Of course, there is nothing stopping interested Harlequin breeders from going through the standardization process for the gold phase of the breed. It would be a worthy project.

In addition to the nuptial and eclipse plumages common to all ducks derived from the Mallard, there is an obvious difference in the plumage of both sexes when they are in juveniles. Once young birds reach 4-5 months of age, they acquire the more vibrant adult plumage.

Disqualifiable defects in show birds include eye streaks in either sex, lack of a neck ring in males in nuptial plumage, and solid yellow or orange bills in adult females. I suspect that the last DQ stems from a cross with commercial Aylesburys made to increase the gene pool diversity after their importation.

Frankly, I am surprised that we do not see more Welsh Harlequins given their obvious qualities.

Originally published: 09-08-2018
Last updated: 09-09-2018