Shetland Duck

Ark of taste
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These ducks are very rare and all originate from only the Shetland Isles.
Both sexes are similar in having an iridescent glossy black plumage. This is to carry throughout the entire bird with the exception of a white bib that commences at the lower mandible and is carried down over the breast. The only real difference between the sexes is that the duck has a black beak whereas the drake’s is more of a dark olive green. The breed lays a good number of medium sized white eggs. The egg size increases with the age of the duck coming into lay in Shetland in early April and not finishing often until late September.
The birds are found to be very hardy and are good foragers. This would have been necessary in years gone by, as they had to largely supplement their diet from the surrounding marshland and seashores of the croft. In foraging they would have played a part in reducing the burden of the internal parasites that may have affected some of the larger croft animals. They would have helped for example by eating the snails, the host of liver fluke that created a great health problem for the sheep and cows that grazed nearby.

The few people who are interested in saving this genepool are helping to keep this breed in existence, none of which would have been possible without the a couple of producers of the Isle of Trondra who saved this breed single-handedly. Thanks to them the true breeding Shetland Duck is still in existence.
They have been breeding Shetland Ducks for over 20 years at Burland Croft on the island of Trondra and have distributed them throughout Britain so there thankfully now are a few pockets where smallholders are maintaining the pure breed. Rare breeds of poultry seem often to be undervalued.

Their eggs have a stronger flavour than a hen’s egg and their richness perfect for all dishes particularly savoury dishes using eggs. Their flesh is quite dark and full flavoured, with a distinctive richness. Because these first have a long and happy life they tend to be mature before they end their life so a moist slow cooking method is both advisable and delicious.

The first ducks found had been crossed at some point and this they believed to be all that was remaining on the island until they came across a pure female on the island of Foula and a small number from the east side of the Shetlands. They also discovered a line of ducks in the north mainland that led to a future exchange of pure drakes. All pure bred Shetland Ducks that are available today have an ancestry coming from these crofts on Trondra.

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Breeds and animal husbandry

Nominated by:Wendy Barrie, Bosse Dahlgren