Bird’s ID – Muscovy Duck

Muscovy Duck

The Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata) is a large duck native to Mexico, Central, and South America. Small wild and feral breeding populations have established themselves in the United States, particularly in Florida, Louisiana, and the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas as well as in many other parts of North America, including southern Canada. Feral Muscovy ducks are found in New Zealand, Australia, and in parts of Europe.

They are large ducks, with the males about 76 cm (30 in) long, and weighing up to 7 kg (15 lb). Females are considerably smaller, and only grow to 3 kg (6.6 lb), roughly half the males’ size. The bird is predominantly black and white, with the back feathers being iridescent and glossy in males, while the females are more drab. The amount of white on the neck and head is variable, as well as the bill, which can be yellow, pink, black, or any mixture of these. They may have white patches or bars on the wings, which become more noticeable during flight. Both sexes have pink or red wattles around the bill, those of the male being larger and more brightly colored.

Although the Muscovy duck is a tropical bird, it adapts well to cooler climates, thriving in weather as cold as −12 °C (10 °F) and able to survive even colder conditions. All Muscovy ducks have long claws on their feet and a wide flat tail. In the domestic drake (male), length is about 86 cm (34 in) and weight is 4.6–6.8 kg (10–15 lb), while the domestic hen (female) is much smaller, at 64 cm (25 in) in length and 2.7–3.6 kg (6.0–7.9 lb) in weight. Large domesticated males often weigh up to 8 kg (18 lb), and large domesticated females up to 5 kg (11 lb).

The true wild Muscovy duck, from which all domesticated Muscovy  originated, is blackish, with large white wing patches. Length can range from 66 to 84 cm (26 to 33 in), wingspan from 137 to 152 cm (54 to 60 in) and weight from 1.1–4.1 kg (2.4–9.0 lb) in wild Muscovy. On the head, the wild male has short crest on the nape. The bill is black with a speckling of pale pink. A blackish or dark red knob can be seen at the bill base, and the bare skin of the face is similar to that in color. The eyes are yellowish-brown. The legs and webbed feet are blackish. The wild female is similar in plumage, but is also much smaller, and she has feathered face and lacks the prominent knob. The juvenile is duller overall, with little or no white on the upperwing. Domesticated birds may look similar; most are dark brown or black mixed with white, particularly on the head. Other colors such as lavender or all-white are also seen. Both sexes have a nude black-and-red or all-red face; the drake also has pronounced caruncles at the base of the bill and a low erectile crest of feathers.

This non-migratory species normally inhabits forested swamps, lakes, streams and nearby grassland and farm crops, and often roosts in trees at night. The Muscovy duck’s diet consists of plant material obtained by grazing or dabbling in shallow water, and small fish, amphibians, reptiles, crustaceans, insects, and millipedes. This is an aggressive duck; males often fight over food, territory or mates. The females fight with each other less often. Some adults will peck at the ducklings if they are eating at the same food source.

Photo Gallery

© HJ Ruiz – Avian101

28 thoughts on “Bird’s ID – Muscovy Duck

  1. I’ve never seen a brown one, and was greatly surprised by these. Ours are black and white. Occasionally, I’ll see a mallard with distinctive black and white markings, and have wondered whether there hasn’t been a little mallard-muscovy hanky-pank going on! They also adore toast and homemade biscuits. Our largest flock hangs around a popular breakfast cafe here, and they’re very well fed.

    • These ducks are big birds and eat a lot. Now what you mentioned about mallards having kinky-panky, it wouldn’t surprise me because mallards are known for “mixing up” with other species.
      Thank you for sharing, Linda. 🙂

  2. A friend of mine raised Muscovy ducks in Saskatchewan where the winter temperatures could dip to minus 40 but usually around -20’s Celsius.Tthey were fun to watch as they raised their young and travelled back and forth to the small pond from the barn. they weren’t there just to watch, they tasted good, too. My grandfather went to Florida in the winter and saw them as pests and thought they were ugly.

    • These ducks are not small and are appreciated because they can adapt to many habitats, different foods and produce a great amount of meat for human consumption. They are grown and preferred in many countries. Thank you for sharing, Jane. I appreciate it. 🙂

  3. Thanks again for an interesting showcase HJ. This duck is occasionally dumped or made its way to national parks and reserves, and has been a domestic duck here for some, as it is not found naturally in Australia.

    • That’s exactly how they have been brought to many countries, all over the world. They are extremely adaptable to different environments. Thank you, my friend. 🙂

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