Call Duck Judging Workshop
Mike Ashton, the Call Duck Association
It’s all very well having an opinion, but on what is it based? Is it based on a personal whim? Is it just a
fashionable idea, or is it based on evidence and reason?
A really special vote of thanks from the CDA for those who participated in the Call Duck Judging Workshop at
Solihull in November. The willingness to learn and to share ideas was impressive. Many of those taking part
were judges of significant experience. Most were Call breeders of long standing, and all joined in the spirit of
The aim of the exercise was to look at a small sample of five colour varieties and to assess how they might be
judged according to the Standards for Colour and Markings. Two things were vital: (a) that workshop members
should have time and space to make up there own minds, and (b) all members should have the opportunity to
contribute, whether confident or retiring.
Time was the biggest problem. However, each member had a worksheet and was asked to jot down
observations before being allocated a group. The first group, led by Chris Ashton and Graham Barnard, was
given the task of examining specimens of Silver, Blue Silver and Apricot Silver Calls, comparing them where
possible with larger breeds sharing the same colour form. The second group, led by Sandra Barnard and Mike
Ashton, looked at Mallard and Mallard Pied Calls. The comparative breeds were Rouens and Fawn-&-white
The groups changed over halfway through the session, so that everyone could comment on all five varieties of
Mallard and Pied Colour
It is really important to look at Rouens when thinking about the Mallard Call. The first Standard of 1865 declared
that the ‘grey variety’ of Call duck should have ‘bill, legs and plumage the same as in the Rouen’, which was
described there in detail. This has been the guiding principle ever since. So, what stands out when looking at a
good Rouen female? Here are some of the things pointed out by members of the group:
*The bill colour is brownish orange with a clear ‘saddle’, not muddy green.
*The face stripes are pale brown, not cream or white.
*The body feathers, particularly the scapulars but also the back and chest, are golden brown clearly marked
with double or even triple pencilling. They should not be too dark or ‘fuzzy’.
What about the male?
*The bill is a sort of golden olive, not as yellow as the Rouen Clair or Appleyard and certainly not as blue-green
as the Campbell.
*The stern [the area below the tail and black undertail coverts] is solid grey—no sign of white at all on the better
*The ‘bib’ is really solid, deep claret—no sign of white or silver fringing. It is much neater and more clean cut
than the Rouen Clair and Appleyard.
*The neck ring is clear and even, all the way to the back where it stops suddenly only four fifths of the way round.
* The greater (secondary) coverts are really clearly marked, ending with precise bands of white then black.
There were no ‘little white tips’ as in the Trout Runner.
How did this help with the Mallard Calls? Close examination revealed that some of the Call drakes had bright
bills; some quite dark. A common minor fault was black or ‘sooty’ markings around the nostrils. Just about
everyone also noted how difficult it was to get solid bibs. Even one of the best was a little ragged underneath,
and at least one other had a buff lower edge that might suggest crossing with Yellow Belly at some stage.
Several people made that point. At the other end of the body, judges were critical of the white blotchiness in the
black undertail. Worse still, some of the males had extensive white in the area between the grey stern and the
black undertail. I know wild mallards vary tremendously, especially where they have been allowed to cross with
domestics, but excessive white in this area shows contamination with ‘Trout’ colour. Some of the males had
hardly any white in the stern. It can be done!
The females too were much lighter underneath the tail than Rouens. Some were even white in the stern ground
colour, much lighter than equivalent Trouts! Nobody in the group thought this was a good direction for breeding.
This led to a further observation—female Mallard Calls seemed to suffer from extremes: many were rather
‘biscuity’ in ground colour, whilst others were very drab or dark with indistinct pencilling. Some had cream
eyebrows and pale throats. It was suggested by two or three group members that this can easily arise from
crossing with ‘Dark Silvers’ (themselves mongrels from Mallards and Silvers).
A final comment: it came as quite a shock when Sandra opened the wings of one of the Mallards. Nobody had
noticed it earlier, when the bird was in its pen. It had a ‘handful’ of perfectly white flights! This certainly was not
planned, and it is a salutary reminder. This bird would be disqualified (for being crossed with Pied at some time
in its ancestry). Judges need to take Calls out of the pen to examine them fully. It is amazing how many faults
and such serious defects can be missed. I think we all learned something from that sobering experience.
Looking at some quite beautiful Fawn-&-white Indian Runners gave even more food for thought. Pied Runners
have been bred and ‘perfected’ much longer than Calls and it seems to be taking quite a time for Call breeders
to get to grips with the realities. The obvious thing to notice is that the F&W Runners are Duskies whilst the
Calls have the rudimentary markings of the Mallard (male bibs and female face markings). The pied markings
(patches of white) are identical, although the body shapes and carriage exaggerate the patterns a little. One
thing picked up by group members was that Calls with good cap, face and neck markings tended to lack the
speculum, indeed any colour on the secondary feathers. ‘For years we have been trying to get a speculum and
good head markings,’ said one group member. ‘When you look at the Runners you realize that they have
perfectly white secondaries. We have been trying to go in two opposite directions!’ He is right. Look at a good
Fawn-&-white Runner and you will see how much white is needed on the head, neck and wings. Take a look
also at the belly and thighs. There should be a clear line between the brown chest and the white belly. Also
check that both sets of thigh coverts are white, not brown. Even in the Runners, it is not uncommon for one set
to be white and the other to be brown. They call this ‘foul flanked’. Judges need to look at both sides of the bird.
Also check that it is not damaged in the other eye. Blind birds often look at the judge only with the good eye!
|What is happening with the Pieds in the UK?