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Muscovy Duck

Cairina moschata ORDER: ANSERIFORMES FAMILY: ANATIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

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.

Keys to identification Help

Ducks
Ducks
  • Size & Shape

    Muscovy Ducks are large, heavy-bodied ducks with long necks that can make them look like small geese. They have a fairly long bill that slopes smoothly up to the forehead. The tail is fairly long. Males are larger than females; domesticated individuals are often larger than wild.

  • Color Pattern

    Wild Muscovy Ducks are mostly black. Adult males have large white patches on the wings; juveniles show much smaller white wing patches. In good light, the black feathers can show a greenish gloss. Domesticated and feral Muscovy Ducks can have variable large patches of white to brown. Muscovy Ducks have red facial skin with odd warty growths.

  • Behavior

    Wild Muscovy Ducks are wary birds that feed by dabbling in shallow wetlands. Domesticated individuals can be common at urban parks, where they mix with other ducks and take handouts from park visitors.

  • Habitat

    Wild Muscovy Ducks live in forested wetlands and nest in tree cavities. They forage in shallow wetlands, ponds, and lagoons. Domesticated ducks can be common on farms and in parks.

Range Map Help

Muscovy Duck Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

Similar Species

Similar Species

Muscovy Ducks are distinctive at close to medium range. In silhouette or in flight, they may resemble other species. Greater White-fronted Goose has a longer neck than Muscovy Duck and is brown, with a light-colored bill and white under the tail. Black-bellied Whistling-Duck and cormorants, like the Double-crested Cormorant, have longer, thinner necks and narrower wings. Domestic and hybrid Mallards can be large and variably patterned, but typically do not reach the size of Muscovy Ducks and lack the warty face and sloping bill shape.

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.

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