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Welsh Harlequin Duck

The Welsh Harlequin originated in 1949 from two mutant light colored ducklings hatched from pure Khaki Campbells by Leslie Bonnet, a duck breeder living near Criccieth Wales. In 1968, John Fugate imported hatching Harlequin eggs to Tennessee, but by 1980, descendants of the original imports were confined to two small flocks. To broaden the gene pool, breeders imported additional Harlequins in 1982 and in 1984 they began to offer birds for sale in the United States. The American Poultry Association scheduled a tentative show for their admittance to officially recognize the breed in October of 2001. (Holderread 2001, 42)

The Welsh Harlequin is a lightweight breed at 5-6 pounds. (Batty, 134) Harlequins are streamlined, with relatively long bodies, medium-width backs, rounded chests, full abdomens, and wide-spaced legs. Their necks are topped with trim, oval heads that sport medium-long, slightly concave bills. (Holderread 2001, 43) The color and patterning of the Harlequin is complicated. The drake's head is greenish black, shoulders reddish chestnut frosted with white, and breast creamy with reddish-chestnut. The upper back has a tortoise effect in cream, white, brown, and chestnut while forewings are cream-white and reddish brown, with a shiny green and bronze cross-band. The tail is blackish/bronze edged in white, the legs and feet are orange, and toenails are brownish-black. The duck has a creamy white head with brown stippling. Often there is a delicate light rust or burnt orange blush to her head, neck, and breast. The crown of the head typically has more brown stippling than the rest of the head. Her body is creamy white with buff and brown-green or bronze bands on her wings. Her tail is a mixture of creamy white and brown. Her legs are orange when young, and brown when older. Toenails are brownish-black. Welsh Harlequin duck and drake ducklings may exhibit a subtle sex-linked difference in bill color at birth. (Holderread 1985, 2-4)

Harlequins are primarily raised for their wonderful practical attributes. "They are highly adaptable, outstanding layers producing 240-330 white shelled eggs yearly, active foragers, excellent producers of lean meat, beautifully colored and pluck almost as cleanly as white birds when dressed for meat." (Holderread 2001, 44)

When choosing a Welsh Harlequins breeder, select "robust, strong-legged birds that are free of physical deformities, heavy layers, and of correct body type and color. To help perpetuate the authentic Harlequin, avoid the following characteristics: more than a half pound above or below typical weights; short, blocky bodies; large coarse heads; distinct Mallard-like facial stripes; light colored bills in ducks; and poor producers." (Holderread 2001, 43)

ALBC's 2000 census of domestic waterfowl in North America found only188 breeding Welsh Harlequin. While five people reported breeding Harlequins, only one primary breeding flock with 50 or more breeding birds existed. (Bender, 4) There is a critical need for more conservation breeders of Harlequins. Their excellent laying ability, lean meat, and stunning plumage make them a great addition to any small farmstead or backyard producer's flock.

Status: See CPL

Batty, Dr. J. Domesticated Ducks and Geese. London, England: Fanciers Suppliers Ltd, 1985.

Bender, Marjorie E. F. D. Phillip Sponenberg, and Donald Bixby. Taking Stock of Waterfowl: The Results of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy's Domestic Duck and Goose Census. Pittsboro, NC: The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, 2000.

Holderread, Dave. Breed Bulletin #8503: Welsh Harlequin Ducks. Corvallis, OR: The Duck Preservation Center, 1985.

Holderread, Dave. Storey's Guide to Raising Ducks. Pownal, VT: Storey Communications, Inc., 2001.

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