We developed a key to identify wings of hybrids between American Black Ducks (Anas rubripes) and Mallards (A. platyrhynchos). Material for analysis included review of historical descriptions dating from the late 1700's, older museum collections in Europe and North America, wings collected from hunters in North America and Great Britain, birds banded in Canada and the United States, and a flock of propagated hybrids. All first filial generation (F1) American Black Duck - Mallard hybrids were identified correctly with the key. A lower proportion of other hybrid cohorts (i.e., backcrosses of F1 to parental forms (P1), and second and third filial generations (F2, F3, etc.) were identified. We successfully identified a larger portion of male than female hybrids for all hybrid progeny cohorts examined except F1. The new key identified 2.37 times more hybrids in the 1977 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Parts Collection Survey (annual determination of the species, age, and sex composition of the waterfowl harvest using detached wings contributed by hunters) than were identified by standard techniques. The proportion of American Black Duck - Mallard hybrids to the American Black Duck parental population (the ratio: hybrids/[hybrids + American Black Ducks]) may therefore be closer to 0.132 than 0.056, the historically reported value. The hybrid key is suggested for use from North Carolina north in the Atlantic Flyway and Arkansas and Tennessee north in the Mississippi Flyway (areas where other members of the Mallard group will not confound assessment). We provide suggestions for further research that would assist identification of wings in parts collection surveys and permit estimation of the proportional representation of Mallard genes in the American Black Duck gene pool.
Additional publication details
Federal Government Series
Description and identification of American Black Duck, Mallard, and hybrid wing plumage
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
National Wetlands Research Center, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center