Call Ducks are truly the cutest ducks and are perfect for a small backyard flock or homestead. They are bantam sized, weighing between 1 and 2 pounds and have a stout and rounded appearance, with short bills and big White Callsround cheeks that make them look like plush toy ducks. They are also friendly and animated and great with children.
Call ducks were originally known as Coy ducks or decoy ducks from the Dutch word de kooi meaning 'trap'. Willughby, writing in 1678, described how Coy ducks were used to catch wildfowl. The tame ducks were fed at the entrance to great traps constructed in the form of a 'pipe'. Wild fowl were enticed down by the quacking (calling) of the tame birds, and then caught and slaughtered for the commercial market. These early decoy ducks may not have been like the Dutch Call ducks we know today; they may have been decoys by training rather than breed.
In German, the Call Duck is known by the title 'zwerg', meaning 'dwarf', and the Dutch also consider it to be a dwarf form. Dutch writers believe that Calls may have originated in the Far East.
We are led to believe that they are bred from stock imported from the orient in former centuries . . . As old pictures prove, pure Chabo or Japanese Bantams . . . were to be found in Holland in the seventeenth century. There is a possibility that importations were made by Dutch captains from Japan . . . We should not be surprised if some day Japanese poultry and duck fanciers might find in their old books information relating to some old breed of dwarf ducks, especially as the Call duck's type is very different to the ordinary European type of duck to sport from it, and since they breed so true they must be a very old-established breed (van Gink, The Feathered World 1932).
Dutch Call ducks were in Britain by the 1850s. They were described as having a head much rounder that the wild duck, rather like a tumbler pigeon. The breed was one of the first six waterfowl standardized in 1865. It was exhibited at the Victorian exhibitions and kept and illustrated by Harrison Weir (1902).
During the first half of the twentieth century, the Call virtually disappeared. It was rarely advertised for sale, and few articles were written about it. Breeders such as Appleyard and perhaps wildfowl specialists kept it.
Due to the interest of Jack Williams and John Hall, the breed was maintained and became more popular by the 1970s. Having been absent from the UK Standards since the 1865 edition, the Decoy appeared again in the 1982 version and, since then, has increased its popularity.
From the original colors of White and Grey in the 1865 Standard, there are now nine standard colors in the UK. Several others are being developed by different breeders from the UK stock. These include the long-recognized Dusky, the Black, and color variants of the Silver. As well as these, there are now other colors from imported stock.