I skimmed through this thread, but have to comment. The birds pictured on pages 1 & 2 are NOT show quality Welsh Harlequins. They don't have good body color, the one female has a yellow bill which is wrong and the other hen is poorly colored as well. I don't know where they originated but I was not impressed. If you show them in the US at ANY show, they will be judged according to the AMERICAN POULTRY ASSOCIATION Standard of Perfection. The UK Standard does not apply to our birds because they are in the USA! After 11 years of breeding these birds we can pretty much judge what our young birds will look like as adults by their first sets of feathers and it while it varies, it doesn't change much from the "general rule". I would personally not use any of those birds in a breeding pen ever. All of the purebred welsh harlequins in the US originate from the Holderreads. From our own experience with breeding them for the past years we have found that you MUST keep the females with the proper amount of speckling or you won't improve them in your breeding program. Our flock is a closed flock meaning we don't put new birds into it. (Other than birds hatched from our own flock.) We are not worried about inbreeding because our original stock all met the APA Standard when we chose them and we have a large number of drakes and ducks to increase who is bred with whom. We have both silvers and golds and are working with another breeder to increase the number of show quality golds in order to hopefully have them make it into the standard.
You say that your birds fit the UK Standard, but unless they are golds, they don't. The UK only accepts the gold variety with the bronze speculum. It appears all of yours are silver or snowy birds. If you want nice quality birds go to Holderreads or go to some of the breeders listed in the International Waterfowl Breeders Association breeders directory. You will be very satisfied with them and they will meet their breed standard. One of the hens we showed at the Crossroads National won reserve of breed in a nice large class of both sexes and ages. We were very impressed with her as a duckling, and retained her because she had all the proper traits. We have found over time that some of her full sisters are almost as nice as she is, but she was picked at a young age because in her first set of feathers she had the right amount of color and only got better the older she got. There are links to my blog on the signature line if you would like to see some of our flock. We have several birds that aren't pictured because we hatched them after that. We also have an additional gold drake that is AWESOME, that isn't in any of those pictures because he was the last bird we brought in before we closed our flock to new blood. That said, we brought in this Gold male from the breeder that beat us at Nationals, her birds are also bred to the same standard and all originated from Holderreads in the 80's. Our birds and hers are basically the same genetic stock, but they are bred differently, and half a country apart. They are genetically diverse because she may have chosen to drake one over ducks two three and four, and we used drake a over ducks b c and d. Although they all trace they lines back to the same place, they aren't all brothers and sisters.
As a side note to the breeding inbred birds as well. Our original Snowy Mallards came from a breeder in OH who developed them by crossing Snowy Calls and Grey Mallards. He used a grey drake Mallard over a snowy Call hen, Hatched babies and saved them all back for breeding. Then he bred those babies back to each other and back to the snowy call hen. When he finally hatched Snowy babies, we went and picked up two pairs of them all four being snowy and all four being very closely related. We purchased them in December of 2003. We bred from them without the addition of new birds until 2006. When we purchased a new set of ducklings from a hatchery. (Not being overly impressed with them we saved one drake and used him in addition to our originals.) From 06 til 2010 we only kept the same birds hatching each year and retaining only the best quality birds from each breeding season. Last year we added a trio of other birds when a breeder was selling out also in OH, but have not gotten rid of any of our originals that we used for breeding. We still hatch from our birds, and with some of them being 5+ years old we still have excellent fertility and excellent hatch rates. Last year we had way more eggs than we knew what to do with from only 3 breeding trios. (We left the newest trio together to hatch from them only for some of the young birds as well.) You can breed birds together for a lot longer than many people think without having any problems. When you run into problems, thats when its time to change it up, not after each breeding season.
Many of the original poultry breeders and the "greats" bred from only closed flocks of birds without changing up their breeder birds each year. Once they established their lines, they only bred from within their lines and once the genes were set, the addition of outcrossing could cause more damage than good to their breeding pens.
Just my thoughts...take it for what its worth.
Jason (K&S Waterfowl)