Here we show many of the hybrids received as fresh specimens during the first three hunting seasons of this project, 2013/14 through 2015/16; we also include a few captive-bred hybrids of particular interest. Although we've received many wonderful hybrids, unfortunately (for us!) about two thirds of the hybrids we hear about are mounted. Often we receive photos and tissues from these mounted birds, but photos will be of little use in describing plumage variation that eventually may facilitate distinguishing first and later generation hybrids.

Museums already house many old specimens of hybrid waterfowl, but virtually all of these early specimens lack associated tissues for genetic studies. Thus, the Burke's new collection being generated by American hunters is already unique in the world for its size and scope. Eventually, genetic studies will identify the sire and dam, and the hybrid generation for each of these specimens, information critical to testing ideas about the origins of hybrid waterfowl and that can only be obtained from this unique new collection.

Please consider helping build this public resource. All of the key ideas we seek to address with it can only be tested with good samples of hybrids that have associated tissue samples.

Mallard x Northern Pintail

This is likely the most common hybrid found between the broadly sympatric ducks of North American. Unfortunately, they are so stunning that most are mounted; thus, we received no whole specimen in 2013, and just the three shown here in the following two seasons. But taxidermists and hunters have provided tissues from several birds that were mounted, giving us fresh genetic material for analyses. Both are raping species, which may explain the high prevalence of hybrids between them. Stay tuned!

Wings of Mallard x Northern Pintail hybrids. Left are parentals: Pintail above, Mallard below.

Right are wings from two hybrids.
Note the green speculum in the hybrids, which is bronze in pintails, and blue in mallards.

Mallard x American Widgeon

We received two in the 2013 season, none since. This is a valuable hybrid combination for testing the rape hypothesis because Mallards are rapists but Wigeon are not, suggesting they will have Mallard sires.

Chuck Biller sent us this male in full color from of New Mexico. It is a spectacular bird, likely an F1 hybrid.  All images are males. Top to bottom in each picture is: Mallard, Biller hybrid, American Wigeon.

Tyler Welker in Alaska wins the prize for recognizing another Mallard x wigeon hybrid.

The season opens early in Alaska and the bird he gave us was in full juvenile plumage.  But it shows the same wing characters as Chuck Biller's full plumage bird from New Mexico, so it likely is also an F1 hybrid.

All images are males.

Top: Mallard
Middle: Welker hybrid
Lower: American Wigeon.

Mallard x Gadwall  (Described by Audubon as Brewer’s Duck)

Mallards and Gadwalls are both rapists; nonetheless, it seems likely that hybrids between them will have Mallard sires because female mallards (and their defending mates) may be large enough to successfully resist Gadwall rape attempts. Only larger samples will tell!

This bird, UWBM 68928, was salvaged in Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, California in 1995 and was already in the Burke collection. It is in female in full juvenile plumage and was not recognized as a hybrid until its wing was examined carefully.

Its wing shows all the characters of a classic Brewer's Duck.

All images are wings from juvenile females.

Top: Mallard
Middle: UWBM 68928
Bottom: Gadwall

Aaron Yetter, a research biologist with the Illinois Biological Survey sent us this female Brewer's Duck from their freezer. It was shot in Illinois in the Fall of 2011 by Dr. Josh Stafford.

Again, all images are wings from young females.

Top: Mallard
Middle: Yetter hybrid
Lower: Gadwall

Fortunately for us hunters seem less inclined to have Mallard x Gadwall hybrids mounted, so we have received several additional birds in the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Two were in good plumage; several others were young males in molt and a single female.

We urge hunters to check the wings, because all ages and sexes of these hybrids of can be recognized by the wing characters shown above.

Mystery bird!

The lower bird in this picture, shot by Brad Livaudais in Louisiana, was sent to us as a hybrid Mallard x Mottled Duck. However, the face pattern resembles Brewer’s Duck, shown below, and the flecking pattern on the breast and belly resemble the dark flecking that characterizes the breast of Brewer’s Ducks. But why is the belly flecked? Could this be a Brewer’s backcross to a Mallard? Genetic work should tell.

Mallard x Redhead

Brad Watts of Poulsbo, Washington donated this remarkable hybrid.  It was sired by a wild mallard that mated with female Redhead housed in an open pen, and was two years old when it died.  We cannot include it in the study of the origin of wild hybrids, but the bird is so remarkable it deserved posting.  This is the wing shown on the home page.

Northern Pintail x American Wigeon 

Oh, how we wish we had this one for the Burke collection! 

This hybrid is so stunning that we are still waiting to acquire a full specimen.  Dave Cagley sent this photo, and provided tissue from another he shot.

Gadwall x Northern Shoveler

Our only study skin of this cross is an F1 hybrid bred by Brad Watts. The white face of this hybrid is unlike either parent but the green head of the shoveler comes through on the crown. The patterns and colors of both parental are mixed on the hybrid's back, except that all white from the shoveler parent is suppressed.

The breast is odd, showing much heavier flecking than seen in Gadwalls, but tinted reddish, presumable from the shoveler parent.  

Fortunately, we received a hunter-taken wing of this cross from the harvest survey. This wing and the wing of the bird bred by Brad Watts (center wings) match closely and have a hint of the blue in the shoveler wing.

                                                                                         The bill of the Watts hybrid is intermediate
                                                                                                     between the two parentals.

Gadwall x American Wigeon

The only specimen we have received of this hybrid combination is a wing from the USFWS harvest survey. We are eagerly awaiting a full specimen! 

Top: Gadwall male.
Middle: hybrid, sex unknown.
Lower: American Wigeon male.

Note these characters: The tertials have faint white stripes from wigeon. The leading edge of the underwing (white in Gadwalls, grey in wigeon) is intermediate. 
There is a hint of green in the upper speculum.

Gadwall x Green-winged Teal

How lucky we were to receive these two hybrids from Randal Hebert and Terrence Dini in our first year.  Not another one has come in two more seasons!  Gadwalls and greenwings are both raping species, but the size asymmetry suggests Gadwall sires.

Note the heavier markings on the breast of the two hybrids and the reddish head with a subdued green patch coming through from the Green-wing parent.  The Hebert hybrid also shows teal-like cinnamon in the lateral under tail coverts, but this does not show in the Dini hybrid. 

These wings are too remarkable to describe in detail, but note some green in the speculum from the teal, and that the white wing patch of Gadwalls is mostly suppressed.  These specimens are exceptionally valuable for eventual detailed plumage descriptions!

American x Eurasian Wigeon

This hybrid combination is unlikely to be generated by rapes. The two species bred on different continents and neither is characterized by frequent forced copulation attempts. Several alternatives could explain how mis-pairing might generate these hybrids.  First, they could result from female Eurasian Wigeon that winter in North America being unable to find male Eurasian mates. This suggests F1 hybrids will be sired by American Wigeon males that likely would accept a Eurasian female as a mate, rather than going unmated. 

Two alternative hypotheses predict the opposite, namely, Eurasian Wigeon sires for F1 hybrids. If female American Wigeon prefer mates able to defend them from male courting harassment, then female American Wigeons that pair late may avoid the remaining unpaired American males as mates and, instead, choose a more dominant Eurasian male that can defend them from harassment. Finally, American females could simply be attracted to the appearance of Eurasian males. We doubt female preference for the appearance of Eurasian males drives interbreeding in the wigeon because such a preference would quickly generate many hybrids, thus breaking down their species differences in appearance. 

We have received a number of wigeon hybrids but have preliminary genetic data on just five adult-plumaged males. Two were F1 hybrids, shown above left, and three were F2 backcrosses, shown above right.

Only good samples of F1 hybrids, which nuclear genes will identify, can distinguish the alternative hypotheses for sires.  Study skins of wigeon hybrids will be valuable for documenting and illustrating plumage differences between these classes of hybrids.

Common Goldeneye x Hooded Merganser

Hole nesting ducks are often brood parasites and parasitic chicks may grow up imprinted on their host species and prefer them as mates. This hybrid came from a California check station. Unfortunately, the hunter wanted to eat it, but the checker was able to salvage the wings for us.  

All wings are adult males.

Top: Common Goldeneye
Middle: Hybrid
Bottom: Hooded Merganser