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Ducks

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DUCKS. There are twelve "standard" varieties of domestic ducks raised in this country, but the most popular and abundant is the White Pekin. first imported from China about 1872. It is a large bird, a pair often reaching a total weight of twenty pounds, of delicate flesh and an excellent layer. It may be recognized by the peculiar turned-up effect of its tail and its erect carriage—its legs are set so far back that it walks in an upright posi tion. In a good specimen, the back is long and broad, and the breast round, full and very prominent. The plumage is downy and of creamy or snow-white through out, and the bill yellow. The "standard" weight of the adult drake is eight pounds and the adult duck seven pounds; that of the young drake and duck, each one pound lighter. The average market weight is about five pounds each.

Next to the Pekin in popularity is the White Ayles bury, a famous English variety, similar in general ap pearance, excepting the special Pekin effects of carriage and tail, and averaging a little heavier in weight.

Other well-known types are the Colored Rouen—the name probably from Rouen, a city of Normandy, which is famous for its poultry—with the heavy domestic duck shape but with plumage closely resembling that of a wild Mallard duck ; the Black Cayuga, a purely American variety, and the Colored and White Muscovy.

Ducks are sent to market both dry-picked and scalded, opinions being divided as to the better method.

Ducklings are generally in the market from May to November. The older birds then take their place from December to April.

The general tests for age and conditions given under the head of POULTRY apply in buying ducks. An additional test for age is found in the windpipe, which can be easily squeezed and moved in a young duck, but which becomes fixed and stiff in older birds.

Wild Ducks.

The best known varieties of wild ducks are the Canvasback, Mallard, Redhead, Ruddy, Green-winged Teal, Blue-winged Teal, Pintail, Black, Grey, Widgeon and Wood. See Color Page of Canvasback, Mallard and Ruddy, opposite page 218.

The epicurean value of the cooked wild duck depends principally upon its diet dur ing life. The delicious flavor of the Canvasback is attributable to its feeding princi

pally upon the eel grass called "Wild celery," which grows plentifully on the Chesa peake shores and along the Great Lakes and western rivers. The proof of this statement is in the fact that the Canvasback when found in parts where the wild celery does not grow, offers no choicer flesh than the more ordinary members of the wild duck family.

The delicacy of the flesh of the other varieties named is due to their feeding prin cipally on grain, aquatic plants, small mollusks, etc., avoiding the fish diet which gives the rank taste to the Merganser duck.

The last named, the Merganser—also variously known as the Sheldrake or Saw Bill—should always be avoided. Its adherence to a fish diet makes its flesh rank and unpleasant. It may be known by its hooked and saw-toothed bill.

The descriptive items of plumage given in the following paragraphs refer, be it understood, only to especially characteristic markings—a fully detailed description of the elaborate costumes of the wild ducks of American habitat would require a good sized volume exclusively devoted to the subject. Furthermore, in some varieties the plumage varies considerably with the season.

The Canvasback takes its name from the plumage of its back—of ashy white, marked with zigzag black lines. It is further distinguished by a very short bill, and a rather long narrow head sloping back from the bill. The crown of the head is a rich chestnut color, with parts nearly black. The average market size is from five to six pounds a pair, sometimes going as high as eight pounds. The female is somewhat smaller than the male.

The Mallard is the ancestor of a majority of our domestic ducks of colored plum age. The head and neck of the male are a glossy green and the back brown and grey, shading to black,. with blue and white markings on the wings. The female is princi pally dark brown and buff. The average market weight is five pounds a pair, though it often goes higher.

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