Other than shooting a banded bird there is nothing more exciting to a duck hunter than taking an unusual looking hybrid.
In my years of covering the outdoors, I have ran photos of mallard/pintail, teal/wood duck and Ross/Snow goose hybrids and always found the concept of hybridization among waterfowl fascinating.
An article published by the Vancouver Natural History society in 1994 cites that of all birds, waterfowl are the most prone to hybridization with over 400 hybrids documented.
“The Mallard which tends to hybridize more than any other duck has hybridized with about 50 species of ducks and geese. The Wood Duck comes in second, with hybridization records for about 26 other species,” they reported.
“The Mallard’s proclivity for hybridization stems from a number of factors. It is abundant; it has many close relatives; and in city parks and sanctuaries it often suffers from an oversupply of males, who then consort with females of other species.”
“I have a mallard/pintail hybrid that people sometimes ask if I made here in the studio. When I tell them that is a natural hybrid a hunter brought in, some of them cannot believe it. It’s pretty unique,” said taxidermist Bubba Andres of Winnie.
This particular bird has a long neck like a pintail, a short, gray beak like a pintail, a green head like a mallard, a body with feathers patterned equal parts mallard, equal parts pintail and a “sprig” feather that curls up like a mallard’s tail feathers.
“It’s something else,” Andres said.
Sometimes hunters will bag what appears to be a domestic duck/wild duck hybrid. I once saw a duck in a park in Nebraska that looked like a mandarin duck crossed with a blue-winged teal. There were mandarins in the park that people feed and obviously, this one’s mother was hanging out with other kinds of ducks at some point.
A hunter back in 2005 told he me shot was had to have been a mottled duck/muscovy hybrid. And yes, he said it was ugly.
The author photographed this hybrid goose in New York near Lake Ontario. It was with a group of Canada geese and has characteristics of several species.
(Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.)