All About Muscovy
The base colors of Muscovies are chocolate, bronze, white, blue, lavender, and black. All other colors are a combination of, or form of, the previous colors. Base colors are determined by those colors which can be expressed as a single unique genetic marker which has a pre-determined effect on pigmentation. The exact expression of the gene can vary from bird to bird.
There are also patterns, like barred, pied, ripple, and canizie (white head). There are others such as bibbed and white winged which aren't really considered true patterns. Then there is also the much disputed lace pattern.
I've made some very ugly, but useful, breeding cheat sheets.
If you drake is black or blue, check the basic color chart.
If your drake is blue fawn, chocolate, or silver check Here.
If your drake is lavender check the Lavender Chart.
If you hope to do lavender mixes like light lavender, lavender cream, etc...: Check Here.
If you have an odd colored baby there is a page for that, but I hope you like to read. Check the "what color is it" page.
While browsing this site, some of the photos have a zoom option. Mouse over pictures and look for the + in the lower right hand corner.
(White on a duck doesn't automatically mean pied. Pied generally refers to a duck which is split to white, though some people use pied to mean any duck which has some white in it. For showing, a duck can be considered solid if it has less than ten percent white on the total duck.)
The definition of Piebald is colored patches on white, generally asymetrical or irregular in pattern. Just as a white star on a horses face doesn't make it piebald, white color zones on a Muscovy do not automatically make it pied.
Pied, applied to muscovies, usually means any duck that has white in it. True pied, however, is split to white and if you cross two pied ducks some of the offspring can be white. The ducks above aren't split to white, they merely have traits that create some white areas. For show ducks you want less than ten percent white on the total duck.
There are several color zones for white which are repeatable through selective breeding. Canizie is the most notable. White wing tips and white shoulder patches are almost always associated with wild type genes. Bibs are frequently associated with self colored and atipico. These are zoned colors. Bibs either grow to be a full white chest or molt out entirely leaving a colored chest. It depends on the genetics.
(which is one blue dillution gene)
(which is just two blue dillutions)
(which is black, but has irridescent colors like green, blue, and purple)
(which is a sex linked brown gene)
(which is an autosomal recessive brown gene)
(which is a pastel gene)
Please keep in mind that we breed a LOT of pastels and lavender crosses here on our farm. While I have heard the dispute that self blue (aka lavender) cannot be pied, wild type, etc... That particular misconception is born from the fact that Muscovies have Two different self genes. While self blue is very similar in nature to self colored, the two are not identical. A lot of lavender ducks are overlooked and mis-labeled because they are pied or wild type. While it is ideal to have a self colored self blue, it is not a defining factor of the color.
However, a self blue will Never have a variation of color such as lace, gradient, nor a different colored head or tail. In this regard it is like self colored.
(separate from self blue)
it's important to remember that lavender isn't really a color all by itself. It is a color gene, but the action is just to suppress all pigmentation evenly. Straight lav suppresses both the pheomelanin and eumelanin evenly creating a gray bird with dusty red tones.
This means that no matter what you cross it to (assuming that the bird has two lavender genes, as lavender is recessive), the other color is what determines the final color. A bird carrying both a complete chocolate and two lavender genes will be a light brown bird, or cream. The lavender expresses only as a suppression of the chocolate.
Many times when you come across an odd color it's merely the result of multiple crosses which results in a bird with strange colors. Unfortunately, this means that it might be impossible to ask online "What color is my bird?" Because the answer is "Weird."
However, there are some simple answers. Most of the answers are "That's a lot of crossed colors in one duck." But, if the odd color is just on the head and neck, then it's probably just a color zone that has been altered by crossing colors. If it's brown on the tail or on the chest, sometimes that's just the result of a split to another color, but sometimes it's from an atipico gene. If it's a pastel color that isnt' buff or silver, then it's a lavender cross, and there are a lot of lavender pastel colors. If it's a calico, it's really blue fawn (blue and chocolate expressed on the same bird).
Once you get the hang of the few true colors, the crosses get a little easier to identify.
(every duck on this site was bred on our farm, just so that we'd know first hand how the colors work, and how the genes pass from one generation to the next. You may notice that we use the same photos repeatedly. That's because some of the pictures are from our archives because we don't breed those lines anymore. Some of the repeats, however, are because I just happen to REALLY like some of the ducks)
Note: I use the term Faux Bronze a lot. It is NOT a real Muscovy color! It's a type of chocolate that we are raising that looks black. I assume that it's chocolate anyways. Either that or we're raising mutant ducks. But, since they do not LOOK like regular chocolate, I don't want to confuse anyone by Calling them chocolate.
p.s. I hope you don't mind that the site is littered with my own opinions and input. There are plenty of facts thrown in, so you can just skip all my rambling.
Here at the Ugly Duck farm we have been breeding Muscovies for over ten years in the belief that the Muscovy is as pretty as any bird in the world. It just takes a little more work to get their beauty to the surface.
Muscovy are like the Indiana Jones of the bird world. They are well seasoned travelers who have been welcomed into even the most remote corners of the world.
Most people know that Muscovy are South American birds. They started out domestic life with the Aztecs quite a while ago in the tropics.
From there they traveled the world. From France, England, Russia, China, and almost everywhere you can imagine.
Along the way they were crossbred with other birds. This is likely where we get odd colors and discrepencies in which color exists where.
There isn't any real record or proof of where and when and what. However, it's believed that the current Muscovy is a combination of the South American Comb duck, the White Winged Wood duck, and the common Muscovy.
If you look up the individual birds, you'll see many similarities to the current farm duck that we raise today.
This could very well explain why not all areas have chocolate and other areas don't have bronze. We don't really know when new genetics were added in and which genetics.
It's easy to forget what well seasoned travelers the Muscovy are! But, they are an amazing bird with a hundred different names.
The Pato Mudo, the Barbary, Pato do mato, Pato Criolo, Pato Selvagem, Pato Real, ... Then there are the more exotic names: Mentok, Moskusand, Knoppand, and dozens of names that I couldn't spell much less pronounce.
While the Muscovy cannot breed with the common mallard, it certainly can cross with some other ducks of closer relation.
Due to it's history as a well seasoned traveler, Muscovy genetics can be a bit difficult. But, that happens to be what I love about them.
With that in mind, as you read, please remember: Muscovy genetics are still a work in progress.
White ducks usually have blue eyes, pink beaks and yellow feet. There are homozygous white (which are born all yellow) and heterozygous (which are born with a black cap on their heads).
Sometimes white ducks result from crossing pied ducks. These can have brown eyes, black spots on their feet, and other oddities in skin color.
To the left is a chocolate pied duck. She is an irregular pied, which means that the pattern is not symmetrical.
Generally, this irregular pied is not desirable for breeding, but it can make some pretty birds.
Since Pied is sometimes split to white, breeding two pied ducks can result in some solid white ducks.
This is magpie pattern. It has a heart shaped patch on the back, a colored tail, and a cap.
Not all ducks who have white are true pied. In Muscovies, pied is generally used to denote a bird which is split to white. Breeding two pied birds can give you pure white offspring. But, what if the white isn't from a split to white?
This is a bibbed canizie irregular pied duck.
Canizie is the white on her face. Bibbed is the white on her neck. The irregular pied is the white splotch on the lower right side of her chest.
Neither bibbed nor canizie is "Pied", but the white spot on her chest is. This isn't an occurence of split to white, but is a defect of color.
Here is a bibbed duck without the canizie gene.
She is a solid blue duck, despite the bib.
This is also Not a pied duck. White wingtips and white shoulder patches are normal, though not necessarily appreciated. The best colored ducks, of course, have very little if any white.
This duck has a bib, canizie, and white flight feathers. That's a lot of white, but it's not from a split to white. In laymans terms, she's pied. In reality, she just has white color zones.
To the left is a Blue Duckling
The pure form of blue (with two blue genes) is actually silver. Blue is just one gene for blue.
Blue to Blue will give you black, blue and silver offspring.
This is a classic solid blue duck, but her beak is too light to be a good show duck. Most ducks should have beak and feet which match the body color. Bronze and white are the exception, and those two colors should have a pink beak and yellow feet.
This hen is what is typically called a "Self Colored" blue. She is not a self blue, which is lavender. She is self colored, meaning she was born solid blue with blue feet and beak. As she aged, the beak lightened up.
Self colored blue is often mis spoken as "Self Blue". But, self blue is a completely different gene.
This is a silver baby. It has two genes for Blue. Silver to Silver will always give you all silver ducklings.
This silver is the result of bad breeding.
Muscovy ducks have a color zone on the head, neck, and tail which can be altered seperately from the body color. Repeated color crossings can result in these color zones being an odd color, but the odd color usually goes away after a molt or two.
On this silver, it resulted in some buff tones on the head and neck.
That light silver body color is what counts, this is a silver bird.
This is a black drake showing green sheen.
He is a young canizie (white head) as you can tell by the white around his mask. Every time he molts he will get more white on the head and neck. He also has white wing patches, which are pretty normal on black, especially wild type.
This is a chocolate baby (it's actually one of our faux bronze, but I can't find any archived photos of our chocolate babies. We don't have any "normal" chocolates left.).
This is a young chocolate hen. She has too many white feathers to be a "Good" chocolate.
Chocolate comes in many shades of brown.
This is the closest I have to bronze. We call this line "Faux Bronze" since it breeds much like chocolate, and is probably just a very dark version of chocolate.
The difference between chocolate and bronze is in the breeding. A bronze is recessive gene passed by both parents, while the chocolate is sex linked.
This is a lavender baby (and yes it is a wild type lavender). It is significantly darker than the silver baby shown earlier, but lighter than blue.
Lavender, or self blue, can be mistaken for silver. This is because the two genes act in much the same fashion by suppressing color.
The difference is that lavender will have red tones, while silver will not.
On the bird above you can see the almost dusty look which separates lavender from silver.
This is a self colored blue duck, but not a self blue duck. A self colored duck can be any color, but it is born solid colored (sometimes with a light bib) with solid feet and beak color.
Like true self blue, a self colored duck will not have lace or mealy colors. These are very desirable for breeding programs to produce well colored birds.
Adult Self Colored birds are solid with solid colored feet and beaks. The hen in this picture is an adult self colored blue.
She is still genetically a blue duck, just a very good blue duck.
Self color can occur in any color. In this baby it shows as brown with a light colored bib.
Many self colored birds are born with a white or light colored bib. It molts out.
Adult selfs are always perfect. While they are often born with a bib, the bib usually disappears at maturity.
Self coloring is a weird recessive trait that has to be passed by both parents to express. Not all solid colored ducks are self colored. Regular solid colored ducks (no split to white, and lacking the color zones for white) can have lace and mealy colors. They can also have variations of skin color on the beak and feet.
Lavender is the gene for pastel. These are some pastel ducks from lavender.
In the far back there is a light silver, in front of him is a buff cream, front left is a silver lavender, and then on the right is a lavender barred.
The only pastel colors not from lavender are buff (double blue dillution/chocolate) and silver (double blue dillution).
Silver Lavender is a combination of double blue double lavender which results in an overall pale blue bird. Ok, so the one above is from the splash line, but it's still a double blue double lav.
Many pastel babies are born looking like a silver or white baby. However, the down which should be yellow generally looks more orange.
On the left is a black barred juvenile, to the right is a dark ripple.
Barred are white stripes which dissapear at maturity. Ripple is bands of color which persist through- out the life of the bird.
Ripple is already well documented and well bred, so we didn't keep that line other than to breed a few and see how it worked.
Here are two barred ducks to either side of a regular duck. Barred is just white stripes that disapear at maturity.
The bars can be straight lines, circles, or a number of odd configurations. The key is that they are white.
On adult birds, the stripes can still be found under the wings.
These two babies are both barred. The color on the tips of their tails is a clue to their final color.
This odd girl is also barred.
This is a fully mature, or should I say Old, canizie hen.
The white increases with each molt.
This is an immature canizie. You can see the white face mask that is the start of her white head and neck. The white on her neck is not part of the canizie gene. That's her bib. Any duck with that face mask, wether or not they have the bib, is canizie.
This is a newly hatched canizie. You can barely see the little yellow dot next to his eye that means he will be a white head duck.
Some canizies are born looking like they are wearing yellow glasses, but not always. Canizie is a dominant gene, and a duckling with only one gene will just have a dot of yellow next to the eye.
It will still express with the full white head at maturity.
Blue Fawn isn't really a single color. Reffered to as lilac, blue fawn, and calico: Blue fawn is both chocolate and blue in one bird.
Blue fawn are usually an even color. The genes that I use result in more calico looking birds. Your Blue fawn will likely not look like the one on the left.
To the left is a picture with two ducklings. The duckling on the left is a normal pied baby. The duckling to the right is a wild type.
Wild type can be any color, but they have a stripe next to the eye and four yellow dots on their back (hence the nickname "Four spot wild").
Wild type does not affect adult coloration. Wild type adults may show more white than non wild type siblings.
Wild type is a dominant gene. Some people confuse Common and Wild Type. Wild Type is a pattern, common is Black.
This duck is an atipico dusky hen.
She looks black, but she was born looking just like a chocolate and turned black later on.
Atipico dusky mostly just makes the down on a baby look brown and removes the wild type pattern, unless it's a chocolate atipico. In which case it makes a chocolate duck with green sheen.
Some chocolate atipicos are so dark that it's hard to tell them from black.
Regular Atipico, not self colored or atipico dusky... just means that it isn't a wild type. In the photo here, the duckling on the left is Atipico. He has no eye stripe and does not have the four spot wild pattern. It isn't a dusky because the down is not brown.
Atipico mostly just alters down pattern and sometimes color on babies. Wild type birds often get stray white feathers as they grow up.
This blue has a red chest and neck.
Muscovies have a genetic color zone for head and neck which allows variations of color. There are blue birds which have black head and neck, there is canizie with white head and neck, and... here we have a red head and neck.
The trait is just from multiple color crosses.
Splash Muscovy are one of our oddest birds. They're really just a cross of many other traits and colors.