Crested Pekin Duck: Facts, Profile, Traits, Range, Diet, Ecology

crested pekin duck

The Crested Pekin Duck, also known as the White Pekin, is a beloved American breed cherished for its succulent meat. Originating from China in the 19th century, these ducks found their way to the United States, where they have since thrived and spread to various corners of the globe. Renowned for their plump bodies and distinctive crests atop their heads, these ducks have become a staple in many households and farms, prized not only for their culinary qualities but also for their charming appearance.

Crested Pekin Duck: Facts, Profile, Traits, Range, Diet, Ecology

The lineage of the Crested Pekin Duck traces back to its ancestral roots in China, where it was selectively bred for its meat. Transported to the United States during a wave of avian exchange in the 1800s, these ducks quickly captivated breeders with their robust physique and gentle demeanor. Over time, dedicated breeders honed the breed’s characteristics, refining its features to the iconic standard we recognize today. Through careful selection and breeding programs, the Crested Pekin Duck has evolved into a symbol of culinary excellence and agricultural ingenuity.

Differentiation from the German Pekin

The Crested Pekin Duck, often referred to as the American Pekin, stands apart from its counterpart, the German Pekin, despite sharing a common Chinese ancestry. While both breeds trace their origins to China, they have undergone distinct breeding trajectories, resulting in noticeable differences in their characteristics and appearance. This differentiation serves to highlight the unique qualities of each breed, showcasing the diversity within the broader Pekin duck lineage.

Historical Roots: Long Island Duck

A significant chapter in the history of the Crested Pekin Duck unfolds on Long Island, New York, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was here, amidst the picturesque landscapes and fertile farmlands, that these ducks found a thriving habitat and garnered widespread recognition. The breed became synonymous with the region, earning the moniker “Long Island Duck” as a testament to its deep-rooted connection to the land and its people.

Rising Popularity as Pets

Beyond their culinary prowess, Crested Pekin Ducks are winning hearts as beloved pets, thanks to their amiable disposition and endearing charm. More and more individuals are discovering the joy of welcoming these ducks into their homes, where they quickly become cherished members of the family. Their gentle nature and playful antics make them delightful companions for both young and old, fostering bonds that endure for years to come.

Lifespan and Cultural Influence

The Crested Pekin Duck boasts a respectable lifespan, with individuals living an average of 9 to 12 years when not raised for meat production. This longevity allows for meaningful relationships to form between humans and ducks, further cementing their status as beloved companions. Interestingly, the cultural impact of the Pekin duck extends beyond domesticity, with popular culture offering homage to these iconic birds. It is widely believed that the famous Disney character Donald Duck draws inspiration from the endearing qualities of the Pekin duck, perpetuating their legacy in the realm of entertainment and imagination.

Physical Characteristics and Appearance

A visual spectacle, the Crested Pekin Duck boasts a distinctive appearance characterized by its plump body and unique crest atop its head. With a snowy white plumage that gleams in the sunlight, these ducks exude an aura of purity and elegance. Their elongated necks gracefully complement their round bodies, while their bright orange bills add a vibrant splash of color to their ensemble. However, it is perhaps their crests that steal the show, resembling a tuft of feathery hair atop their heads, lending them an air of sophistication and charm.

Breeding and Rearing Practices

Breeding and rearing Crested Pekin Ducks requires careful attention to detail and a deep understanding of avian husbandry. Breeders meticulously select breeding pairs based on desirable traits such as meat yield, conformation, and crest quality. Through strategic mating and genetic management, breeders aim to maintain and improve the breed standard with each successive generation. Additionally, providing optimal living conditions, access to clean water, and a balanced diet are essential for ensuring the health and well-being of these ducks throughout their lifecycle.

Culinary Significance and Utilization

Renowned for its tender, flavorful meat, the Crested Pekin Duck holds a special place in culinary circles worldwide. Its succulent flesh lends itself to a myriad of delectable dishes, ranging from classic roast duck to aromatic duck confit. The rich flavor profile and versatility of Pekin duck meat make it a favorite among chefs and home cooks alike, inspiring culinary creativity and innovation. Whether enjoyed as a centerpiece for festive gatherings or incorporated into everyday meals, the Crested Pekin Duck continues to delight palates and evoke a sense of gastronomic delight.

Domestication and Breeding in China

The history of duck domestication traces back some 3000 years in China, with evidence suggesting it may have occurred even earlier. The practice of force-feeding ducks dates back to the tenth century, flourishing during the era of the Five Dynasties. Chinese breeders exhibited remarkable skill in refining various duck breeds, including one known as “shi-chin-ya-tze,” roughly translating to “ten-pound duck.” This breed served as the progenitor of the American Pekin, showcasing the Chinese mastery of avian husbandry and selective breeding techniques.

Transatlantic Journey: Arrival in the USA

In 1872, a pivotal moment in the history of the American Pekin unfolded when James E. Palmer, a resident of Stonington, Connecticut, embarked on a journey that would forever alter the course of duck breeding in the United States. Loading fifteen white ducks, including the Crested Pekin Duck, Palmer set sail for the USA, destined to deliver the birds to businessman McGrath. Despite the arduous 124-day voyage from Shanghai to New York City, only nine ducks—six hens and three drakes—survived the ordeal, arriving on March 13, 1873.

Foundation of the American Pekin

Of the surviving ducks, five were intended for McGrath, yet tragically, they never reached their destination, succumbing to the journey’s hardships. Palmer’s remaining four birds, however, emerged as the cornerstone of the American Pekin breed. By July 1873, the three hens among them had already laid an impressive tally of over 300 eggs, laying the groundwork for the breed’s proliferation and success in the New World.

Legal Implications of Duck Ownership

While the allure of owning ducks may be tempting, it’s essential to navigate the legal landscape governing their ownership. In many jurisdictions, owning wild ducks without proper permits is illegal, and releasing domestic ducks onto public land can have dire consequences. Such actions are considered abandonment and can result in charges of cruelty. Furthermore, domesticated ducks raised by humans lack the skills to survive in the wild, making the release a potential death sentence for these birds, underscoring the importance of responsible ownership and adherence to legal regulations.

Physical Characteristics of the American Pekin

The American Pekin stands as a testament to robustness and size, boasting a formidable and solid construction. From a lateral perspective, its body forms a strikingly rectangular shape, inclined at approximately 40 degrees to the horizontal plane, with the tail proudly elevated above the backline. Its broad and smooth breast exudes strength, devoid of a prominent keel, while the head commands attention with its generous proportions and rounded contours. Completing its majestic appearance, the neck presents a sturdy and robust presence, adding to the overall impression of solidity and vigor.

Plumage and Coloration

Draped in a cloak of creamy white plumage, the American Pekin Duck exudes an aura of purity and elegance. Its feathers, pristine and immaculate, shimmer in the light, casting a radiant glow upon its imposing frame. The legs and feet, a striking contrast to the snowy plumage, adopt a hue of yellowish-orange, adding a touch of warmth to the duck’s overall appearance. Meanwhile, the beak, adorned in a vibrant shade of yellow, stands as a testament to the duck’s vitality and health, complementing its regal visage.

Vocalization: Myth and Reality

Despite popular beliefs surrounding the vocalization tendencies of mallard-derived duck species, including the Crested Pekin Duck, the reality is far from definitive. Debates regarding which duck breeds are deemed “quiet” or “noisy” are ultimately futile, as all mallard-derived ducks possess the innate inclination to vocalize. Much like the universal nature of a rooster’s crowing, the quacking of mallard-derived ducks transcends distinctions of breed, serving as a distinctive and quintessential aspect of their avian identity. Thus, while individual variations may exist in volume or frequency, the fundamental truth remains: the Crested Pekin Duck, like its counterparts, is inherently expressive and vocal in its communication.

Sexing Crested Pekin Ducks: A Delicate Art

Determining the gender of a Crested Pekin Duck can be a nuanced endeavor, with various methods and indicators to consider. One of the most commonly relied-upon techniques involves listening closely to the duck’s vocalizations. Female ducks emit a loud honk, while males produce a quieter quack, offering a distinctive auditory clue to their gender. Additionally, male ducks possess a unique anatomical feature known as the drake feather—a curled feather located at the end of the tail—which further aids in gender identification.

Challenges in Sexing Ducklings

Sexing juvenile Crested Pekin Ducks presents a considerable challenge, as their physical characteristics may not yet exhibit clear gender distinctions. In fact, accurately determining the sex of ducklings is often deemed nearly impossible before they reach approximately eight weeks of age. While some may attempt a technique known as sex venting within the first 24 hours of hatching, this method carries significant risks and is prone to misunderstanding. Improper execution of sex venting can result in harm or even death to the delicate ducklings, underscoring the importance of caution and expertise in such procedures.

Importance of Proper Sexing Techniques

While discerning the gender of Crested Pekin Ducks is a task fraught with complexity, it is essential for various reasons, including breeding programs and flock management. However, relying solely on superficial indicators such as the presence of a drake feather may lead to inaccuracies in sexing. For a more reliable assessment, enthusiasts are encouraged to explore comprehensive resources, such as instructional videos, which offer detailed explanations and demonstrations of effective sexing techniques. By leveraging a combination of auditory and visual cues, duck enthusiasts can enhance their ability to accurately determine the gender of their beloved Crested Pekin Ducks, ensuring optimal care and management of their flock.

Salmonella Warning: Health Risks Associated with Live Poultry

Health officials issue a stern warning regarding the potential health hazards posed by live poultry, cautioning that all such birds, regardless of their outward appearance of health and cleanliness, can harbor salmonella microorganisms. These harmful bacteria can lead to illness in humans upon contact with bird droppings, highlighting the importance of exercising caution when interacting with poultry.

Preventive Measures: Minimizing Salmonella Transmission

To reduce the risk of salmonella infection, individuals are advised to refrain from behaviors that may facilitate transmission, such as kissing chickens or ducks and bringing them into close proximity to the face. By maintaining a safe distance from live poultry and practicing good hygiene, individuals can mitigate the likelihood of contracting salmonella and safeguard their health.

Origins and Evolution of the Crested Pekin Duck

The Crested Pekin Duck stands as a testament to millennia of domestication and selective breeding, tracing its roots back over 2000 years to the ancient civilizations of Southeast Asia. While the precise location of its origin remains a subject of debate, consensus suggests that Southeast Asia served as the cradle of domestication for this iconic breed. Through centuries of careful breeding, Crested Pekin Ducks have undergone remarkable transformation, evolving into large-breed, white-feathered dabbling ducks prized for their superior egg and meat production.

Environmental Considerations: Pond Management for Crested Pekin Ducks

While Crested Pekin Ducks can thrive in pond environments, prospective duck owners must exercise prudence and foresight before introducing these birds into their backyard ponds. It is essential to recognize that bodies of water have finite carrying capacities, and an excessive population of waterfowl can disrupt the delicate balance of the pond’s ecosystem, compromising water quality and overall environmental health. Therefore, thoughtful consideration and planning are crucial to ensuring the well-being of both Crested Pekin Ducks and the ecosystems they inhabit.

Crested Pekin Duck: A Meat Production Powerhouse

The Crested Pekin Duck reigns supreme as a premier choice for meat production, with the majority of ducks raised for slaughter in the USA belonging to this esteemed breed. With population numbers soaring into the tens of millions within the USA alone, the Crested Pekin Duck commands a formidable presence in the agricultural landscape, owing to its large-framed build, resilience, and rapid growth rate.

Superior Traits for Commercial Success

Renowned for their exceptional feed conversion ratio and remarkable growth potential, Crested Pekin Ducks can achieve staggering body weights exceeding 3.5 kg (7.7 lb) in a mere seven weeks. Their calm temperament, fertility, and high hatchability rates further contribute to their appeal as a preferred choice for commercial meat production. Additionally, the distinctive white plumage of Crested Pekin Ducks simplifies the cleaning process post-plucking, streamlining the production workflow for maximum efficiency.

Endearing Qualities and Versatility

Despite their primary role in meat production, Crested Pekin Ducks possess endearing qualities that extend beyond their utility as livestock. Characterized by their hearty disposition and friendly demeanor, these ducks have endeared themselves to enthusiasts and hobbyists alike. While they may exhibit a degree of skittishness, Crested Pekin Ducks make excellent pets due to their unique personalities and overall resilience. Their robust immune systems and adaptability to various environmental conditions make them relatively easy to raise compared to other domestic duck breeds.

Evolution of Selective Breeding

Since their introduction to the USA, selective breeding efforts for Crested Pekin Ducks have been predominantly focused on enhancing traits related to size, strength, and growth rate. While historical emphasis centered on maximizing meat production, recent endeavors have sought to reduce the proportion of fat in the carcass without compromising growth rate or feed efficiency. These ongoing breeding initiatives reflect a commitment to optimizing the breed’s genetic potential for sustainable and efficient meat production practices.

Dual Purpose: Egg Production and Exhibition

While primarily prized for their meat production prowess, Crested Pekin Ducks also excel in egg laying, with females capable of producing over 150 white eggs per year. While they may not excel as natural sitters, their eggs can be artificially incubated to maintain reproductive productivity. Additionally, Crested Pekin Ducks find favor among fanciers and exhibitors, with show-quality specimens often surpassing their commercial counterparts in size and aesthetic appeal, further highlighting the breed’s versatility and enduring legacy in the realm of domestic duck breeding.

Crested Pekin Duck: Facts, Profile, Traits, Range, Diet, Ecology

Healthy Diet Tips for Crested Pekin Ducks

To ensure the well-being and longevity of your Crested Pekin Ducks, it’s crucial to provide them with a balanced and nutritious diet. Here’s what you need to know about their dietary needs:

Wild Diet

In their natural habitat, Crested Pekin Ducks consume a diverse range of foods, including aquatic organisms like fish, frogs, and algae. They also forage for nuts, berries, seeds, worms, crickets, flies, and mosquitos.

Domestic Diet

While domestic ducks may have access to foraging opportunities on a farm, their diet still requires supplementation with traditional poultry feed. Here are some considerations for their domestic diet:

  • Layer Feed: Female ducks need a “layer feed” rich in calcium and essential vitamins to support egg production.

  • Protein-Rich Diet: Male ducks require a protein-rich diet supplemented with intermittent calcium to ensure fertile eggs.

  • Pet Ducks: Free-ranging pet ducks can be supplemented with chicken scratch or corn, but moderation is key to prevent obesity. Corn is beneficial for adding extra fat, while protein sources are essential for energy, especially during the winter months.

  • Ducklings: Baby ducks should be fed a specialized diet called “chick starter,” which provides the necessary protein and vitamins for healthy growth. Avoid medicated foods, as ducks have robust immune systems that may not require additional medication.

By providing a balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs, you can ensure that your Crested Pekin Ducks thrive and lead healthy lives. Regular monitoring of their diet and weight will help prevent issues such as obesity and nutrient deficiencies.

Setting Up a Pen for Crested Pekin Ducks

Creating a suitable living environment for Crested Pekin Ducks is essential for their health and well-being, whether you’re raising them as pets, for eggs, or for meat production. Here’s how to set up a pen for your ducks:

Temperature and Enclosure

  • Shelter: Provide a draft-free shelter with hay on the ground to keep the ducks warm during the winter months.

  • Shade: During the summer, ensure there is ample shade available to protect the ducks from excessive heat.

  • Water: Ducks need access to water for cleaning their bills and swimming. While swimming isn’t essential, it’s beneficial to provide a shallow area for them to splash around.

Cleanliness and Sanitization

  • Regular Cleaning: Keep the coop and pen clean to prevent disease outbreaks and maintain the health of the ducks.

  • Hygiene Practices: Regularly clean feed containers, pens, and coops to ensure a healthy environment for the ducks.

Predator Safety

  • Identify Predators: Understand the predators in your area and take appropriate measures to protect the ducks from them.

  • Secure Enclosure: Implement measures such as fencing, secure locks, and predator-proofing to keep predators out of the duck pen.

Breeding Safety

  • Protect Females: During the breeding season, take steps to protect female ducks from harm. Monitor their interactions with males and provide separate nesting areas if necessary to reduce the risk of injury.

By following these guidelines and ensuring that the pen is set up to meet the specific needs of Crested Pekin Ducks, you can create a safe and comfortable environment for your ducks to thrive. Regular maintenance and monitoring will help ensure the health and well-being of your flock.

Breeding Crested Pekin Ducks

Breeding Crested Pekin Ducks involves special considerations to ensure successful hatching and the well-being of the ducks. Here’s what you need to know:

Incubation Method

  • Alternative Incubation: Crested Pekin Ducks rarely sit on their eggs, so alternative incubation methods are often required. This can include the use of an incubator or a broody hen to hatch the eggs.

  • Incubation Conditions: Pekin eggs typically take around 28 days to hatch and require consistent temperature and humidity levels. An automatic incubator is often preferred for maintaining optimal conditions.

Mating Ritual and Group Dynamics

  • Female to Male Ratio: Assign approximately five females to one male duck to ensure a balanced mating environment. Too many males can lead to aggression and potential harm to the hens.

  • Environmental Enrichment: Providing a small pool of water can enhance the mating experience for the ducks and increase the likelihood of successful breeding.

Breeding Compatibility

  • Cross-Breeding: Pekin Ducks, as descendants of the mallard, can breed with various domestic duck breeds worldwide, leading to diverse offspring.

Flock Management

  • Show-Quality Breeding: If breeding show-quality birds, be prepared to cull the flock of young ducks at an early age to maintain breeding standards and genetic integrity.

Breeding Crested Pekin Ducks can be a rewarding experience, but it requires careful attention to breeding dynamics, incubation methods, and flock management practices. By following these guidelines, you can promote successful breeding and ensure the health and vitality of your duck flock.

Crested Pekin Duck Breeds

Crested Pekin Ducks encompass various breeds that share similar characteristics and appearances, often leading to confusion among enthusiasts. Here are some prominent breeds within this category:

American Pekin

  • Origin: Introduced to America from China in 1873 by James E. Palmer, the American Pekin is a robust breed commonly found in commercial farms, backyard farms, and even as pets. Health books, guides, exercises, habits, Diets, and more
  • Characteristics: Known for its large size and hearty nature, the American Pekin lays approximately 200 eggs per year and is rarely broody. Sexing can be challenging until maturity, with drakes possessing a distinctive drake feather.
  • Quirks: Females have louder quacks compared to drakes.


  • Origin: Hailing from Aylesbury, England, Aylesbury ducks share striking similarities with Pekins, though they are a distinct breed.
  • History: Aylesbury ducks were favored for their meat quality, known to be flavorful and less fatty than Pekins. However, inbreeding and historical events led to their decline, with only one major flock remaining in England today.
  • Traits: Aylesbury ducks are renowned for their clean feathers and meat quality.

German Pekin

  • Origin: Developed in Germany from Chinese Pekins crossed with upright Japanese ducks from Dutch ships.
  • Appearance: German Pekins have an upright stance, resembling Indian Runner Ducks but with a stockier build.
  • Status: Critically endangered due to historical factors, they are primarily kept as pets and showcased in exhibitions.

Jumbo Pekin

  • Breeding: Bred by crossing a meaty strain Pekin drake with a medium-sized Pekin hen, resulting in larger-sized ducks preferred for meat production.
  • Considerations: Due to rapid growth, their legs may not support their weight adequately, impacting their lifespan and productivity.

White Crested Duck

  • Appearance: Resembling Pekin ducks, White Crested Ducks exhibit a genetic mutation known as “hemizygous,” causing a crest on their heads. Bird accessories on Amazon
  • Origin: Likely originating from the East Indies, domestic Crested Ducks have been depicted in art for over 2000 years.
  • Quirk: Crested appearance is a result of a skull deformity caused by a genetic mutation.

Grimaud Hybrid Pekins

  • Origin: Created in France by Grimaud Freres, these ducks exhibit American Pekin-like features and are known for their fertility and high egg-laying capacity.
  • Characteristics: Genetically modified for improved egg-laying and meat production, with limited information available due to proprietary breeding techniques.

Crested Pekin Duck breeds offer a diverse range of characteristics and histories, contributing to the rich tapestry of domestic duck varieties.

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