Living Bird Magazine
Muscovy DuckCairina moschata
- ORDER: Anseriformes
- FAMILY: Anatidae
The strange, warty-faced Muscovy Duck causes confusion for some bird watchers, as it's very distinctive and quite commonly seen, yet does not appear in some field guides. Truly wild individuals are restricted to south Texas and points south, but domesticated versions occur in parks and farms across much of North America. Wild Muscovy Ducks are glossy black with bold white wing patches and are forest dwellers that nest in tree cavities. Their range expanded into Texas in the 1980s; feral populations also exist in Florida.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Across much of central or southern North America, a trip to a local farm or park has a reasonable chance of turning up a domesticated Muscovy Duck. Their plumage can be extremely variable, but look for the largest, longest-necked ducks and check their faces for red, warty facial skin. If you want to see a truly wild Muscovy Duck, visit the Rio Grande Valley of Texas or forested wetlands in Mexico and the tropical Americas. The highest numbers in the U.S. are found along the Rio Grande in Starr County, between Falcon Dam and Roma.
- Pato Real (Spanish)
- Canard musqué (French)
- Cool Facts
- One of the oldest domesticated fowl species in the world, the Muscovy Duck was already being kept by native people in Peru and Paraguay when the early Spanish explorers arrived. The word “Muscovy” may refer to the Muscovy Company (incorporated in London in 1555), which transported these ducks to England and France.
- Aztec rulers wore cloaks made from the feathers of the Muscovy Duck, which was considered the totem animal of the Wind God, Ehecatl.
- Wild Muscovy Ducks are dark-plumaged, wary birds of forested areas. Domestic varieties—heavier, less agile birds with variable plumage—live on farms and in parks in warm climates around the world, where they can be confusing to bird watchers. Complicating the issue, male Muscovy Ducks frequently mate with other species and often produce sterile hybrid offspring.
- Equipped with strong claws, Muscovy Ducks spend a lot of time perching in tall trees. They make their nests in large cavities of mature trees, but will also use artificial nest boxes. The first recorded wild nest in the United States was found in 1984, in a nest box built for Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks near Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park.
- The male Muscovy Duck is the largest duck in North America, but the female is only half his size. After laying 8–15 eggs, she does all of the nest defense and raises the ducklings (which have sharp claws and hooked bills to climb out of the nest). She may also raise additional eggs laid in her nest by sneaky Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.