Bantam ducks, like bantam chickens, are the miniatures of the breed. They range from the small Mandarin and Wood ducks, maxing out at 24 and 25 ounces respectively and popular Call ducks at 26 ounces to 30-ounce East Indie ducks and Mallards, which top out at 40 ounces. Those are the maximum Standard sizes for Old Drakes. Females and young drakes are smaller. Large, for a bantam duck is less than two and a half pounds!
The American Poultry Association recognizes 11 color varieties in three breeds: Call, East Indie and Mallard. The American Bantam Association adds the Mandarin and Wood or Carolina Wood ducks. They are closely related, the Mandarin being the Asian version and the Wood duck native to America.
The ABA also recognizes more color varieties of Call Ducks. In addition to the APA’s Gray, the name for the usual Mallard color pattern, White, Blue, Snowy, Buff, Pastel, Butterscotch, Chocolate and, in 2011, Blue Fawn, the ABA recognizes Black and White Magpies, Blue, Khaki and Spot (Pied). Many unrecognized varieties are raised by breeders, categorized as White and White Markings (such as Black Bibbed); Harlequine (such as Apricot Silver); Wild Patterns (such as Nutmeg and Ginger); and Dusky Factor (such as Self Blue).
East Indie ducks, which were known as Black East Indian ducks through the early 20th century, are only black. Mallards may be Snowy or Gray.
Unrecognized bantam duck breeds include the miniature Silver Appleyard duck and the Australian Spotted duck.
Call ducks have been known as Dutch Dwarf ducks, Coy ducks and Decoy ducks, from their history being used to attract wild waterfowl, ducks, widgeon, teal and others in the 19th century and earlier. They were either trained to return to the cylindrical nets used to capture them or were pinioned, the first joint of one wing removed, so they could not fly, and set on the pond. In England, they were bred from crosses between wild ducks and domestic ones, so that they’d have some distinctive colors and could be distinguished from wild ducks by other hunters. The Dutch were reputed to do a better job of breeding them, achieving the small round body. Harrison Weir in Our Poultry and All About Them (1904) notes that they are high quality table birds despite the small size, “delicate and of delicious flavor.”
Although their name may not have originated from their ‘call,’ it certainly suits them. They are talkative, in what Weir describes as “a high tenor or alto note that is almost musical where a number of ducks are indulging in their evening loquacious prattle.”
Call ducks are very popular – follow your ears to their aisle at poultry shows. The National Call Breeders of America advocates for these attractive little ducks.