Male vs. Female Cayuga Duck

Cayuga duck

Written by Gabrielle Monia

Updated: October 30, 2023

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Cayuga ducks were introduced to the Finger Lakes region of New York state around 1840. While they were once the most common commercial roaster, they’re now common as ornamental and backyard ducks. They are a striking, hearty, and relatively quiet breed that makes for excellent backyard flocks. Male Cayuga ducks are drakes, while a female Cayuga is a hen. If you have a flock of your own you may want to determine whether your ducks are male or female. Let’s discuss the traits of the male vs female Cayuga duck and determine what sets a drake apart from a hen.

Comparing a Male and Female Cayuga Duck

Male Cayuga DuckFemale Cayuga Duck
SizeAverage 8 poundsAverage 7 pounds
PlumageDark black-greenDark black-green, turns speckled or fully white with age
BehaviorDisplay mounting and other mating behaviorsDisplay brooding behavior, giving care to hatching eggs and rearing young
VocalizationsQuiet quacks, raspyLouder quacks, clear

Key Differences Between a Male and Female Cayuga Duck

Many ducks exhibit striking differences between males and females. Often this is in the form of wild variations in plumage or striking facial features. The Cayuga duck doesn’t display these overt differences like other breeds. However, it’s still possible to tell drakes from hens by paying attention to subtle characteristics and behaviors and by listening to their quacks.

Male vs. female Cayuga duck key differences include size, plumage growth patterns, behaviors and vocalizations.

Male vs. Female Cayuga Duck: Vent Sexing

Vent sexing is easiest to perform on ducklings that are a day old. It’s the only method of determining sex before the Cayuga ducks reach about 8 weeks old. The procedure involves inverting the ducklings vent or cloaca to show their sexual organs. It could be tempting to try this on your own when hoping to quickly determine whether you have male or female ducks. However, vent sexing can really hurt ducks if a mistake is made and there’s a high chance of error. Best leave this to the trained veterinarians! 

Male vs. Female Cayuga Duck: Size

Cayugas are medium sized, heavy bodied ducks. Female Cayuga ducks are slightly smaller than males. Hens grow to be an average of 7 pounds, while drakes can reach 8 pounds. Both males and females have broad and deep bodies with broad breasts and slightly elevated chests.

Cayuga duck male (drake)

Cayuga drakes are slightly bigger than Cayuga hens weighing an average of 8 pounds.

©Eric Dobis, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons – Original / License

Male vs. Female Cayuga Duck: Plumage

Cayuga ducklings have fuzzy plumage whether they are male or female until they reach about 90 days old. At this point, male Cayuga ducklings develop hard, curled tail feathers, also known as sex feathers. Tail feathers stand out as a great way to determine sex. However, you should be aware that female Cayugas can occasionally sprout some curly tail feathers, especially if there is no drake in her flock. Tail feathers molt once per year, so males may be mistaken for females at the time of molting when the feathers are shed. Female Cayugas sprout true feathers earlier than males and their wing feathers tend to mature more quickly.

Young ducklings of both sexes have dark brown plumage. As they mature, male and female Cayuga ducks develop the same black-green lustrous plumage. They have a prominent sheen to their feathers, with dark green highlights reminiscent of a beetle shell. Interestingly, their feathers are black due to pigment but the structure of them scatters light to give the iridescent green sheen. In females, feathers may start to fade in color or turn white as they grow older. Cayuga hens may turn entirely white by the time they are about 6 years of age but males will never display white plumage.

Cayuga duck. Drakes and hens.

As they mature, male and female Cayuga ducks develop the same black-green lustrous plumage.

©MaryAnne Campbell/

Will My Cayuga Ducks Fly Away?

Cayuga ducks are generally low-maintenance birds since they tend to stay close to their home and have limited flight capabilities due to their heavier body. While resources suggest that their ability to fly is rare, there have been cases of owners reporting their ducks flying off.

That’s why it’s important to make sure you have adequate room and habitat for them.

Cayuga ducks are characterized by their calm, intelligent, and friendly nature, which makes them a wonderful addition to any pet family circle. Their distinctive appearance and the unique color of their eggs make them a preferred choice for many backyard duck enthusiasts.

Male vs. Female Cayuga Duck: Behavior

Both male and female Cayuga ducks tend to be calm and friendly. Cayuga hens are known for their strong inclination to go broody. They are great mothers who raise their ducklings with care. When broody, your Cayuga hen may show off her hiding skills. She will often hide her eggs exceptionally well since she’d like to hatch them herself. A Cayuga hen may lay 100-150 dark colored eggs per year. Hens may begin laying eggs as young as 5 months old.

Cayuga drakes as young as 4 months of age will often begin to display mounting and other mating behaviors. They may display more confidence and boldness in regards to sharing food and space, but this is only a generalization. Cayuga ducks are not known to be fliers but young females will occasionally get a bit of air. 

Cayuga duck female (hen)

A Cayuga hen may lay 100-150 dark colored eggs per year starting as young as 5 months old.

©soapydishwater, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons – Original / License

Male vs. Female Cayuga Duck: Vocalizations

Aside from vent sexing, paying attention to the vocalizations of Cayuga is the most reliable method of determining the sex of ducklings. As ducks grow, this characteristic remains reliable. If you’re raising a backyard flock you may want to separate one bird at a time and listen to their voices separately. Cayugas are known for being one of the quieter duck breeds. However, females are reliably louder than males. Cayuga hens produce a clear quack, while males tend to have a deeper and quieter quack that often has a bit of a rasp to it.

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About the Author

Gabrielle is a freelance writer with a focus on animals, nature and travel. A Pacific Northwest native, she now resides in the high desert beneath towering ponderosa pines with her beloved dog by her side. She often writes with a coyote call or owl hoot backdrop and is visited by the local deer, squirrels, robins and crows. A committee of turkey vultures convenes nightly in the trees where she resides. Here, the flock and their ancestors have roosted for over 100 years. Her devotion to the natural world has led her to the lifelong study of plants, fungi, wildlife and the interactions between them all.

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