They have dark black feathers with dark green accents. Females start developing white feathers as they age, and may end up very white.
They have long bodies, with shanks and feet dark grey to black, and long black bills. They are slow to mature, only reaching maximum size in their second year, when they’ll weigh 7 to 8 pounds (3.2 to 3.6 kg.)
The ducks are very hardy, friendly and tame, with a soft quack. They like water, and are active swimmers.
The ducks are raised for meat or eggs.
The females are decent egg layers, producing 100 to 150 eggs a year, and are good brooders.
The ducks have good, delicate flesh, but are difficult to pluck without leaving a lot of black pin feathers. Consequently, its recommended to just skin them completely, rather than pluck them.
Cayuga Ducks originated in Cayuga county in the Finger Lakes region of New York state.
One popular tale, which sadly is no more than that, is that the breed reputedly began from a pair of wild black ducks that a miller trapped on his mill pond in 1808 in Duchess County, New York. He prevented them from flying by taking a joint out of their wings; they bred and a flock grew.
The tale, in fact, is actually the story of Gadwall Ducks being domesticated:
“In the year 1812, I saw in Dutchess county, in the State of New York, at the house of a miller, a fine flock of Ducks, to the number of at least thirty, which, from their peculiar appearance, struck me as differing from any I had before seen among the different varieties of the tame Duck. On inquiry, I was informed that three years before, a pair of these Ducks had been captured in the mill-pond, whether in a trap, or by being wounded, I cannot recollect. They were kept in the poultry-yard, and, it was said, were easily tamed. One joint of the wing was taken off, to prevent their flying away. In the following spring they were suffered to go into the pond, and they returned daily to the house to be fed. They built their nest on the edge of the pond, and reared a large brood. The young were perfectly reconciled to domestication, and made no attempts, even at the migratory season, to fly away, although their wings were perfect. In the following season they produced large broods. The family of the miller used them occasionally as food, and considered them equal in flavour to the common Duck, and more easily raised. The old males were more beautiful than any that I have examined since; and as yet domestication had produced no variety in their plumage.” (As reported by John J. Audubon in his 1843 book, Birds of America. http://web4.audubon.org/bird/boa/F39_G4d.html)
In 1840, Cayuga Ducks were introduced to the Finger Lakes region. Some think the birds introduced around 1840 were actually Lancashire Black Ducks from England, introduced by a John S. Clark, which were exhibited at the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in London in 1851.
It’s quite likely that a fair bit of selection and interbreeding with other ducks, on purpose or by accident, happened after the introduction. Some speculate that some of the pedigree came to include possibly Black East Indies and Rouen Ducks.
By 1863, the duck in America was named Cayuga. In 1874, the breed was included in the American Poultry Association Standard of Perfection.
Nelise, Mark. Cayuga’s Comeback. In: International Waterfowl Breeders Association Bulletin. USA. March 1987.
Russell, Craig. Cayuga Ducks. SPPA Bulletin, 2010, 15(3):3-4