hunter with white duck
The specimen was a pure black duck with a rare genetic condition. Mike Wec / DU

Last December, Mike Wec was hunting a pond in Massachusetts when he bagged an incredibly rare leucistic black duck with his first shot of the day.

In the low light conditions, Wec initially thought the duck he’d killed was a hen mallard based on its flight pattern and silhouette. When he retrieved it and saw the varying shades of blonde feathers, he knew he’d shot something special—but still wasn’t sure of the species.

“I remember thinking it had to be a leucistic mallard or game-farm mallard,” Wec told Ducks Unlimited (DU). He finished the day with a black duck with normal coloration, two greenheads, including a banded one, and a wood duck. Back home, he was still curious about the strange white bird, so he sent a sample to the duckDNA lab, a partnership between DU and waterfowl geneticist Dr. Philip Lavretsky at the University of Texas at El Paso, for genetic testing.

This spring, Dr. Lavretsky confirmed that the bird was a leucistic 100-percent pure American black duck hen—the first of its kind confirmed through genetic analysis. Leucism is a recessive condition that’s related to but distinct from albinism. Leucism results in the partial loss of pigmentation, while albinism results in a total lack of pigmentation. In this case, the bird’s different shades of blonde feathers and black eyes were clear indicators of leucism.

In addition to the leucistic black duck, the duckDNA lab detected 15 species of ducks from 721 samples collected in the 2023-24 season. The researchers also identified 19 different duck hybridization combinations, including several examples of “three-species hybrids,” which result when a hybrid duck breeds with another distinct species.

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“This is a huge showcase of what duckDNA provides to hunters and scientists in cooperation at a level we’ve never had before,” said Dr. Lavretsky. “No more assumptions and biases. There is no hiding DNA.”

The post Massachusetts Hunter Bags First Confirmed Leucistic Black Duck appeared first on Field & Stream.

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