Muscovy duck

Muscovy Duck — it is a large duck that has a striking appearance. Some people may even say that they are ugly birds. Domestic species are regularly found in parks, farms and communities. Wild birds tend to shy away from people and are seen in flight in more remote areas with water.

Origin of the species and description

Photo: Muscovy duck

Photo: Muscovy duck

Scientific name for Muscovy duck — Cairina Moschata. There is also a sub-classification for the domesticated breed known as the Cairina Moschata Domestica. The wild Muscovy duck (Cairina Moschata Sylvestris) is actually native to Mexico, Central America, and South America. It is also called the big wood duck or wood duck. Prior to the arrival of Columbus, the indigenous people of the area raised a domesticated variety of Muscovy duck. The animal was mentioned in the writings of Ulisses Aldrovandi, but was only scientifically described and cataloged in 1758 by Carl Linnaeus.

Video: Muscovy duck

Muscovy ducks are one of the strongest members of the waterfowl family. Not only are they larger and broader than most ducks, but they are also colored with glossy black and white feathers and a distinctive red tuft. They have a characteristic fleshy growth that is essentially a piece of skin that protrudes or hangs from the heads of the birds. You have probably seen such growths on turkeys and roosters. When people refer to the Muscovy duck's “warty” appearance, they are referring to its growths.

Fun fact: The average male Muscovy duck is approximately 63-83 cm long and weighs 4.5-6.8 kg, while the average female — 50-63 cm long, and weighs 2.7-3.6 kg. Domesticated breeds can grow even larger. The heaviest male duck reached 8 kg.

Adult Muscovy ducks have a wingspan of 137 — 152 cm. That's twice the size of a normal mallard, so it's impressive when they're fully stretched. This is one of the reasons why they are often mistaken for geese.

Appearance and Features

Photo: What a Muscovy duck looks like

Photo: Muscovy Duck

All Muscovy ducks have reddish faces. Some are bright red and others are muted orange-red, but they all have this feature. As for the rest of their body, there may be some color variation. Wild breeds tend to be darker, while domesticated — lighter.

For example, a wild Muscovy duck may be completely black with dark crimson twigs. A domesticated Muscovy duck may be white, brown, grey, yellow, or lavender with neon red growths. The oil glands in the thickenings of the Muscovy duck are very important. There are tiny oily holes in their growths, and when they groom themselves, they will clean and rub the oil all over their feathers. This protects them when they are in the water.

Muscovy ducks are often confused with geese because they don't look much like ducks. They do not quack and prefer trees to lakes. Scientifically, however, they are still ducks. However, they are different from typical ducks from your local pond. Many people are surprised when they first see a Muscovy duck wagging its tail.

There are several reasons why they do this:

  • if they make noises and wag their tails around your legs, then they are probably just communicating;
  • there are nearby there are other Muscovy ducks and it's mating season, so they can attract the attention of potential suitors;
  • if they puff up or move aggressively towards people or animals, they can wag their tails to appear bigger and scarier. This is a show of intimidation.

There are not enough studies on the lifespan of Muscovy ducks, but anecdotal evidence suggests that they can live from 5 to 15 years. Much depends on their health, environment, breed, diet, reproductive cycles, and whether their owner chooses to eat duck for dinner.

Where does the Muscovy duck live?

Photo: Muscovy duck in nature

Photo: Muscovy duck in nature

Muscovy ducks are native to South and Central America. However, they have been bred, bought, sold and exported for so long that they can now be found in farms and zoos around the world. In places like Mexico, Canada, France and the US, even wild populations are appearing.

Like many other types of ducks, Muscovite ducks love to live near water. They can be at home in ponds, rivers, lakes and swamps. An unusual quality of Muscovy ducks is that they also spend a lot of time in trees. The animals can fly and have strong claws that are designed to grip, so they sit comfortably on all kinds of branches. Females even nest in trees.

The Muscovy duck loves a habitat of dense vegetation, large old trees and water – wetlands, coastal areas or even a local golf pond will attract them as long as the dense vegetation hides in them. Although they swim, they don't swim as often as other ducks because their oil-producing glands are small and underdeveloped.

Most musky ducks seen in North America are of the barnyard type, but small numbers of wild birds from northeast Mexico may appear on the Rio Grande in south Texas.

What does the Muscovy duck eat?

Photo: Muscovy duck on the water

Photo: Muscovy duck on the water

Muscovy ducks are not picky eaters, they are omnivores. Animals will consume weeds, grasses and grains in addition to all kinds of insects, reptiles, crustaceans and amphibians. They will also be happy to nibble on a snail or a plant root.

Muscovy ducks are especially known for eating bugs. In one study, these animals were placed on dairy farms and observed for their effect on area creepy crawlers. Muscovy ducks reduced the fly population by 96.8% and the larval population by 98.7% in a few days. They don't fool around or joke around when it comes to their favorite snack.

Fun Fact: Muscovy ducks have been used by some people as a “pest control agent”. A Canadian study of fly control methods found that the Muscovy duck ate about 30 times more fly traps, papers and other proven methods!

Thus, Muscovy ducks can eat ticks, flies, crickets, caterpillars, grasshoppers, grubs, and many other insects. They are even capable of foraging for larvae and pupae. Animals do an excellent job of pest control as they consume insects at all stages of their lives. In addition, Muscovy ducks love roach and eat it like candy.

Character and lifestyle features

Photo: Muscovy ducks

Photo: Muscovy Ducks

Wild ducks are not known for being sociable or cuddly, so if you're traveling through South America and wondering if you should feed the herds along the river, the answer is — no. Speaking of domesticated Muscovy ducks, they are known for their friendliness because they are raised as livestock. They are bought and sold as exotic pets.

Such ducks can learn to eat out of hand and respond to specific names. They can even wag their tail feathers, which is why people often joke that they are “puppies” when they follow their owners with their tails wagging and their eyes begging for treats. Muscovy ducks can become aggressive when they are bored, restless, frustrated or hungry. They may also misbehave when they reach puberty but have not been provided with a mate.

The good news is that Muscovy ducks can be trained based on their baser instincts. The trick is to start when they are still young. Respond quickly to any signs of aggression with both verbal and physical commands and don't let them off the hook just because they're young and cute. While their actions may seem adorable when they are tiny, fluffy ducklings, the animals will eventually grow into 4- and 7-kilogram birds, and their grip can do much more damage. Muscovy ducks — excellent flyers. They also like it very much, and it is not uncommon for a duck to spend more time in the air than on the ground. They like to perch on fences, sheds, rooftops, chicken coops and other places from a height.

Interesting fact: Muscovy ducks do not quack. They are physically capable of doing this, and may make loud noises when stressed, but this is not a common feature of the species.

Muscovy ducks are known for their hiss. It's a low, snake-like sound, but it's not necessarily negative. Muscovite ducks like to “communicate” with people and animals by hissing at them. It's just how they communicate, and they do it when they're happy, sad, excited, and everything in between. In addition, female Muscovy ducks may make grunting or trilling sounds. They usually target their children. Unlike a hiss, this is almost always a happy or soothing sound.

Now you know how to keep Muscovy duck at home. Let's see how a bird survives in the wild.

Social Structure and Reproduction

Photo: Muscovy Duck Cubs

Photo: Muscovy Duck Cubs

Muscovy ducks are not they mate once in a lifetime. Unlike other duck species, these ducks do not form stable pairs. They may return to the same mate if there are no other options, but in the wild they will seek out different mates with each new mating season.

Mating season for Muscovy ducks lasts from August to May. Males will attract females by wagging their tails and fanning their crests. When a female becomes pregnant, she forms a nest in a hollow tree and lays her eggs in safety. The incubation period is 30 to 35 days. Moms will fiercely guard their eggs during this time; they only leave their nests once a day to drink water or take a quick bath. After that, they return to their children.

As the female lays each egg, she “chirps” so that the duckling is imprinted in her voice. She will then carefully incubate her eggs until they hatch. Often several females breed together. The ducklings will stay with their mother for 10-12 weeks to keep warm and safe. During this time, they will learn all the skills they need to survive. At 12 weeks old, the ducklings will be good-sized birds, but not yet adults.

Muscovy duck females lay 8-15 eggs at a time. They are quite large and this is one of the reasons why they are so prized. They can weigh twice as much as chicken eggs. A duck lays 60-120 large white eggs per year (a small number for ducks).

Muscovy ducks natural enemies

Photo: How they look musky ducks

Photo: What Muscovy ducks look like

Muscovy ducks — delicious birds and many animals love to eat them. Almost any four-legged predator will eat a duck whenever it gets the chance. Foxes and weasels — only two of the many mammalian predators Muscovy ducks may encounter. Snakes also eat ducks, as do birds of prey such as hawks, owls, and eagles. Turtles love to eat little ducks.

Muscovy ducks can also be preyed upon by crows because these guys are not only scavengers but also active hunters who regularly feed on other bird species such as ducks, — that is, they can afford to catch a duckling to eat for dinner. Otherwise, they are left face to face with an angry Muscovy duck, which will readily defend itself or its chicks.

Minks, weasels, otters and ferrets also love their duck meat, and will always prey on musky ducks, risking their health in their watery areas — for that matter, ducks — very powerful swimmers.

Other predators that threaten Muscovy ducks can be:

  • The notorious snapping turtles, so named because of their bone-crushing jaws that can and will kill anything poorly positioned enough to be caught;
  • alligators and crocodiles;
  • eagles, including bald eagles and their golden cousins;
  • falcons and hawks.

Species population and status

Photo: Muscovy Ducks

Photo: Muscovy Ducks

Muscovy ducks are not surveyed anywhere in their range, and little is known about their population. Wetlands International estimates their total population is between 100,000 and 1 million individuals and suggests they are declining. On the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, this duck is listed as Least Threatened, although numbers have been declining over time.

Muscovy duck is not on the 2014 bird watch list. The conservation of this species requires protection from hunting and conservation of lowland tropical wetlands. The sharp decline in the population in Mexico is due to over-hunting and deforestation of floodplain forests. In Central America, hunting for ducks and their eggs is a threat. Because this large duck needs a large nesting area to accommodate its size, problems arise as old growth forest shrinks and natural territories are lost.

Fortunately, musky ducks can use artificial nests. After Ducks Unlimited built more than 4,000 Muscovy duck nests in northern Mexico in the early 1980s, the population grew and expanded into remote areas of the lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas. The wild Muscovy duck population in the US has been slowly increasing since 1984.

The Muscovy duck is a quiet, peaceful duck with a personality of its own. These ducks “talk” with their tail, waving it furiously when they are animated or happy, like dogs. The animals tolerate winter weather well as long as there is suitable cover, and will rarely migrate unless the weather is severe. Among other things, it is a representative bird that loves to hunt flies and mosquitoes.

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