Muscovy Duck

Cairina moschata
Range Map

Muscovy Ducks are New World dabblers, but soon after the Spanish invasion into Mezo-America, they brought these birds to Europe and domesticated them.

There are three varieties of these ducks: domestic, feral, and wild. Wild birds are extensively hunted, and so are quite shy and not likely to frequent places where humans habituate. We find domestic birds on farms and in public parks. Feral birds are wild, in the sense of being free flying ducks, but the gene pool is not pure. The birds pictured in the gallery below belong to this last group. Their behaviour and any white feathers on their heads rule them out as true wild ducks.

When I found myself in south Texas during the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, I settled in at an RV park (Breeze Lake) in Brownsville. The property featured a resaca, or ox-bow lake along its southern boundary. Feral Muscovy Ducks were some of the birds that entertained me during the lock-down period, and few other birding venues were available. Especially fun was the time a momma brought her brood onshore, and I captured a few images.

At over six-and-a-half pounds, with a 48 inch wingspan, male Muscovy Ducks are larger than some geese species. Despite their large size, it may come as a surprise to learn of their love of tree life and perching in high places. Like Wood Ducks, Black-Bellied Whistling-Ducks, golden-eye ducks, Hooded Mergansers and a few others, Muscovy Ducks nest in tree cavities.

Only in south Texas will we find these wild ducks in the USA. But many regions through Mexico, Central and South America host Muscovy Ducks. They are nonmigratory and remain in territory wherever they live.

Taxonomists regard the Muscovy Duck as monotypic (i.e. no subspecies).

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