When we see a duckling on television, yellow rubber ducks, or ducklings in a book illustration, they are commonly yellow.
It’s so common to see a yellow duckling; we don’t really question it anymore.
Are they all yellow? Why are they yellow?
Despite the classic rubber ducky design, not all ducklings are yellow in real life.
Because of selective breeding for white ducks, some domesticated duck breeds, such as Pekin ducks, have yellow ducklings. Wild ducklings, like wood ducks, have more naturally camouflaged colors of different shades of yellow, brown, tan, and cream.
Different breeds of duck have different duckling colors.
But there are no adult yellow-colored ducks unless you count the occasional pale yellow sheen of the German Pekin.
As they age, baby ducks lose their yellow pigment and feather into the mature coloring dictated by their genetic inheritance.
To find out more about yellow and other duckling colors, read on!
What Colors Are Ducks and Their Ducklings?
Brought from China to the U.S. in 1873, the Pekin duckling is bright yellow, while the adult has all-white plumage and an orange bill.
The Pekin duck is one of the most popular breeds of domesticated duck and is familiar to adults and children alike.
A single recessive mutation to the gene regulating melanin in the duck’s feathers causes the white feathers of the Pekin duck.
The absence or presence of pigments in the duck’s feathers gives it its color; the more melanin in the feather, the darker it is.
Pekins are large-sized ducks and beloved barnyard companions.
The German Pekin is similar to the American Pekin in its Chinese heritage.
But it has undergone different breeding in Germany with plenty of modifications.
One difference is sometimes the adult ducks have a very pale-yellow tint because of the coloration of individual feathers.
German Pekin ducklings are yellow.
The White Call duck and the Snow Call duck have yellow ducklings.
They are not yellow as adults, the names themselves giving away the fact they have white feathers.
Interestingly, as these small ducks get older, their feathers turn silver, pied, magpie, dark silver, blue fawn, black, bibbed, and apricot.
As their name hints, call ducks are used to call larger ducks to them for hunters to shoot.
Mallard ducklings have yellow and brown markings.
Adult females are brown and speckled.
Male mallards are brighter than females, with the trademark green heads, grey wings, and grey breast feathers making them easily identifiable.
A bird originally from South America, adult Muscovies have a wide variation of light and darker colors.
It’s very often splotchy and asymmetrical.
The Muscovy duck was domesticated in South America before the fifteenth century and is a good meat bird.
A Muscovy typically has a light-colored head, while the rest of it is darker.
Related: 10 Black And White Duck Breeds
Muscovy ducklings can have some yellow markings, but more dark colors exist.
The male Muscovy duck is very large, and the female is about half his size.
Muscovy ducks are quiet birds and make good backyard ducks for the urban homestead.
The American Wigeon is a sleek, beautiful bird with the males having a similar coloration to the Mallard during the breeding season.
The female is browner.
The Wigeon’s ducklings are brown.
The Northern shoveler is a common bird in North America, with the male sporting green, cream, brown and rust-colored feathers.
The ducklings of the Northern Shoveler are usually brown.
Saxony ducks are a buff-blue mallard coloring, and their ducklings are yellow and a darker brown/yellow.
Indian Runner ducks are upright, amusing ducks with various plumage.
This includes chocolate, white, black, light brown, blue, dark brown, and brownish/green.
Their ducklings are yellow.
Aylesbury ducks are white, and their ducklings are yellow.
Can a Mallard Duck Have a Yellow Duckling?
Mallard ducklings are not typically all yellow.
They have yellow markings with brown mottled markings for camouflage.
Mallards are wild ducks and thus have not been subject to selective breeding like domestic ducks.
This is why their coloration has more natural camouflage.
Yellow ducklings usually turn into white- or buff-colored ducks.
So if you see an all-yellow duckling, it is certain to be a breed with one of those colors, not a mallard.
Are Ducklings Yellow?
The popularity of yellow illustrated and toy ducklings might make it seem like all ducklings are yellow.
Only certain breeds of ducks have yellow ducklings, such as the Pekin duck.
In reality, ducks and their ducklings come in various colors, although with wild ducklings, the coloration tends towards camouflaging in shades of brown in patterns and speckles.
By domesticating ducks and selectively breeding for white plumage, humans have taken away the ability of these breeds’ ducklings to remain easily hidden from predators.
The popularity of rubber ducks perpetuates the myth all ducklings are yellow.
Coloration in the wild has to serve a purpose.
In ducklings, camouflage is of the utmost importance.
Adults need camo too, but mating attraction has become more important at this age.
Why Are Ducklings Yellow and Ducks White?
A light amount of pigmentation in the duckling’s body gives its feathers a yellow color.
As the duckling ages, they lose their down, and their adult coloring comes in.
Yellow down gives way to white or buff-colored adult ducks because of the lack of melanin in the feathers.
Humans have selectively bred domesticated ducks to be white, so their ducklings are typically yellow, whereas wild ducks have various colors, and so do their ducklings.