Erick Conard's Lucky Hit Ranch:
Indian Runner Ducks


Sex Linked Genes

We know that in birds, males have two complete sex genes, ZZ, (like the XX in human females) and females have only one complete and one incomplete sex gene, ZW, (like the XY in human males). When designating female traits found on the sex gene, it is typical to use a dash to indicate the female's W chromosome, which lacks a location for the sex linked genes (i.e. brown dilution gene). The dash indicates she does not have a gene locus available on the W chromosome.


(Sex linked)
Dilutes black pigment (eumelanin) to chocolate brown. (Brown dilution is lightened further if "blue dilution" is also present.)

Since the brown (and blue) dilution gene acts on black pigment (eumelanin), black pigment must be present for the expression of the allele at the Brown dilution locus to be apparent.

dilution (Non-diluting wild type)

(Sex linked)
The "D+" gene is the gene found in the wild-type (mallard) fowl and allows black to be black... so does not dilute black to brown, like in the recessive brown dilution gene "d."

Since the brown dilution gene acts on black pigment (eumelanin), black pigment must be present for the expression of the allele at the Brown dilution locus to be apparent.


(Sex linked)
Lightens feathers, feet and legs, and bills.

Autosomal Genes

Mallard alleles

Restricted("MR)," Mallard wild type("M+)," and Dusky("md")

(Mallard allele)"
Mallard pattern modified with white on wing fronts when mature. Seen in Silver Appleyard.

Restricted Mallard Ducklings: Dark Pigment on the back is confined to patches on the head and tail. The remainder is dull yellow with dark under color.

Restricted Mallard Adults: In both sexes the difference is on the wing front and bow. The restricted bird always shows areas of white on the dorsal surface. This is due to the white lacing or tipping rather than completely white feathers. The feathers may have a silvery cast to them. The females wing bow appears paler than in the Wild type Mallard or the Dusky type Mallard.

Each of the three Mallard alleles ("MR," "M+," and "md") produces its own unique pattern in both ducklings and adult birds.

Mallard allele
(Wild Type)
Dominant to "Dusky" ("md");
Recessive to "Restricted (mallard)" "MR".
Mallard "M+" (Wild type) allows the full expression of wild-type Mallard plumage coloration, as seen in the domestic Rouen. Mallard (Wild type) is dominant to Dusky Mallard and recessive to Restricted Mallard.

Mallard Ducklings: Olive-black with four yellow spots on the back. The head is yellow with two ocular (eye) stripes from the base of the bill to the dorsal area.

Mallard Adults: The male bears full expression of the wild type. The female is rich buff brown with a dark line running from the base of the bill through the eye and a dark patch on the crown that runs down the neck. Each feather is distinctly pencilled with black or very dark brown.

Each of the three Mallard alleles ("MR," "M+," and "md") produces its own unique pattern in both ducklings and adult birds.

(Mallard allele)
Recessive to Mallard "M+" and Restricted "MR".
Dusky produces a darker, plainer look in both ducklings and adults than Mallard ("M+"). Dusky has the effect of removing the eye stripes (face markings) of the typical mallard. In addition, in the presence of the dark phase gene, dusky removes the iridescent blue speculum and, in drakes, the white collar and claret-colored (red) breast. So a Dusky drake lacks the typical bib and collar of the mallard color and has colored under-wing coverts, instead of cream-white coverts.

Dusky Mallard Ducklings: The back is olive-black shading off to olive-grey on the under side. They lack ocular stripes and dorsal spots.

Ducky Mallard Adult Males: A male usually lacks the neck ring and the claret breast is either missing or very small.

Dusky Mallard Adult Females: A female is very dark and lacks eye stripes and cap.

Each of the three Mallard alleles ("MR," "M+," and "md") produces its own unique pattern in both ducklings and adult birds.
"Dusky" is seen in Khaki Campbells.

Dark Phase ("Li+"), Light Phase ("li"), and Harlequin ("lih")

Each of these genes affect the mallard color.
Dark phase
"Li" allele
The Dark Phase, "Li+," is the dominant of these three and allows full expression of any of the three Mallard alleles ("MR," "M+," and "md") (Mallard alleles are found at the M locus.)
The effect of "Li+" is frequently seen in mallards and the domestic Rouen.

Dark phase ducklings usually have two unbroken stripes running through the eye whereas Light phase ducklings never have more than one.

When light and dark phases are with Dusky mallard, it is impossible to tell the ducklings apart when then hatch.

Light phase
"li" allele
Recessive to Wild-type ("Li+")
Dominant to Harlequin "lih".
Light phase modifies expression of the Mallard locus alleles by lightening feathers overall and replacing some colored feathers with white.
Light phase also extends male claret-colored breasts.

Light Phase: Lightens the color of the adult plumage in the female and intensifies the color of the male.

Ducklings: At 19 to 20 days light phase ducklings have a white spot under their chins. Light phase ducklings never have more than one unbroken stripe running through the eye, whereas Dark phase ducklings usually have two. When light and dark phases are with Dusky mallard, it is impossible to tell the ducklings apart when then hatch.

Adults: The light phase is brought about by the reduction of the size of the dark portion of each feather. The light phase increases the area of claret on the breast and extends it along the sides over the shoulders. A minor modification in the males causes the black on the back to reduce to dark grey.

Light Phase/Dusky Mallard: With Dusky Mallard present, the Light Phase will produce some claret in the breast region of the males. A lighter tone occurs in the light phase dusky female.

Harlequin phase
"Li" allele
Recessive to both the Dark phase and the Light phase.
Harlequin produces an effect similar to the Light phase but with even greater exaggeration of the lightening effect.

Runner pattern ("R")
Runner pattern
"R" allele
Incompletely dominant.
Runner Pattern - The cap is separated from the cheek markings by an extension of the neck white (The neck white covers the entire neck.). The breast white starts in front of the thigh and passes between the legs to beyond the vent. A third area of white is present on the wings covering the primaries, secondaries and lower part of the wing bow. This pattern can be bred on self colors and wild mallard colors.

The Runner pattern is a specific pattern of white markings on a colored background. Fawn and White Indian Runner ducks and American Fawn and White Runner ducks carry the runner pattern.

Modifying genes (not yet identified) affect the expression of the Runner pattern gene.

Extended Black ("E") and Non-extension of black ("e+" allele)
Extended black
"E" allele
Extended black ("E") spreads solid black pigment across all plumage areas except areas influenced by white spotting genes. Seen in Black Cayuga, Black Orpington, and Black East Indian. Extended black ("E") may also impart a grey tint to eggshell color.

Non-extension of black
"e+" allele
The "e+" gene (when homozygous - "e+"/"e+") codes for wild-type coloration (allows the expression of the Mallard "M" series) by supressing the spread of black pigment across the plumage and allowing other color genes to be expressed.

"e+"/"e+" does not allow production of black pigment. Since Extended Black ("E") is dominant to "e+", the heterozygote ("E"/"e+") plumage color looks more like the plumage color of the "E"/"E" homozygote.

Blue Dilution ("Bl" allele)
Blue Dilution
"Bl" and "bl+" alleles
Incompete Dominance.

Wild Type - lack of blue dilution.
Blue dilution, "Bl," is primarily a diluter of eumelanin (black pigment). Therefore, if the fowl has the E (Black Extension) gene, the Blue Dilution gene is expressed whereas if the fowl carries e+e+ (Black Non-Extention) genes there is little expression of the Blue Dilution gene. Blue Dilution Heterozygotes can be a blue-grey while Blue Dilution Homozygotes can be nearly white.

The "bl+" wild-type (mallard) recessive gene is the lack of the dominant blue dilution factor, "Bl."

Since the blue (and brown) dilution gene acts on black pigment (eumelanin), black pigment must be present for the expression of the allele at the Blue dilution locus to be apparent.

Recessive white ("c" allele)
Recessive white
"c" allele
Recessive white, "c," is recessive and responsible for the white in common white breeds. In the homozygous state (c,c), recessive white masks all other color genes.

Therefore, white ducks also carry color and pattern genetics, but the expression of those colors and patterns is masked by the white gene "c".

Bib ("S" and "b" alleles)
Dominant bib
"S" allele
Dominant bib "S" Dominant. White on upper neck and breast. This may be an interaction effect and not really a gene. Expression is variable.

Recessive bib
"b" allele
Recessive bib "b" Recessive. Causes fowl to have a bib of white.

Trout Runner Coloration ("li" allele with "MR" or "M+" alleles)
Trout Runner Coloration

Produced by Light Phase on either Restricted or Wild Mallard
Light Phase


Restricted Mallard
Wild Type Mallard
Light Phase on Restricted Mallard or Wild Mallard produces the Trout Runner Coloration.

Aleutian ; Grey Patterns with a reduction of the size of the dark portion of each feather.

Cinnamon ; Grey Pattern with a reduction of the size of the dark portion of each feather **This group could come in any of the colors**

Harlequin Phase ; Spot ; These look like the mallards Hunter described in the mutation from wild mallards (Hunter 1939). The female is almost entirely white, greyish head, light coloured wing and tail, normal speculum. Males are the lightest in the harlequin group with normal markings.

Snowy ; Red - buff head, some red on the chest and shoulders, black and red spotting on the back with a violet speculum. Males darker and more red than the spot male.

Blue Snowy ; Blue replaces the black in the male and female.

Chocolate Snowy; Chocolate replaces red on the male and female.

Minor modifications in the harlequin restricts the color under the chin around the neck down the breast and ventral areas of the female. The male will have white eye streaks in the eclipse plumage.

Appleyard ; The wild mallard pattern

Butterscotch ; Female ; Rich golden red with eye streaks over white. Male ; Rich blue with claret extending over the shoulders, down the flank and low on the breast region.

Yellow Bellies ; This is the same pattern as the butterscotch female, wild colour on the back and head, The eye streaks and the entire underside is yellow. Male ; wild pattern with yellow belly .

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