Every duck season you will see a picture on social media or the internet of a really cool looking hybrid duck of some sort. Whether it is a Mallard/Pintail, Mallard/Gadwall or a Widgeon/Woodie they are all true trophies. In most of the hybrids I have personally seen or know of, there is usually a mallard in the mix. Why is that so? It is because the mallard has the largest breeding area off all puddle ducks. They will mate with other species of ducks more so than any other waterfowl.
I have seen several hybrids personally and only a few were actually pretty and not just a sloppy mix of 2 species. But, they are far more rare than killing a banded bird and that is a trophy to a lot of hunters.
Hybrids will typically have a hard time finding a mate or pair bond due to the fact they won’t be desired by either species that they are comprised of. A mallard/gadwall hybrid will have traits of both species and will usually be rejected by both mallards and gadwalls when it comes time to pair up. The hybrid drakes will lack the attractive plumage that will be appealing to hens on the breeding grounds.
If a hybrid is successful in breeding, its’ offspring will almost certainly be infertile.
In 1822 John James Audobon shot a Mallard/Gadwall Hybrid on Lake Barataria, Louisiana. He named the duck a “Brewer’s Duck” after his friend Thomas Brewer who was an Ornithologist in Boston, MA. John Audobon tried for years to find another individual of the same species and was not successful in finding a breeding population of the duck.
I was fortunate enough to kill a mature Mallard/Pintail hybrid 2 years ago in Fouke, Arkansas. We were hunting a flooded rice field that was loaded with mallards and pintails. We kill plenty of mallards every year and only a couple dozen or so pintails, so we were trying to get our limit of pintails every day. There was a group of 4 pintails working our spread and I noticed one was a “green head”. When the ducks finally made a pass over the decoys we went to work on them. We had killed all of them but the “green head”, so I swung on him and my shot found its’ mark and the bird folded up like a cheap knife. My lab Chief brought him back to me and I was amazed at what I held in my hands. He was an absolutely spectacular bird. I have been fortunate to have killed over 2 dozen banded birds and this hybrid left me speechless. I think I could hear the “Take my breath away” song playing in the background like on Top Gun!!
This bird is a true trophy and I will more than likely never kill another one like it. I will probably kill more banded birds and have great experiences, but this hybrid will always be in my mind and never forgotten.
Be on the lookout next time you are on the duck waters for these hybrids and you just might kill you one of these True Trophies.
Story by Shane Smith