Muscovy Duck Fact File

Cairina moschata

Credit: Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Weight

4kg

(9lbs)

Length

84cm

(33in)

Lifespan

Wild 8 years

Captive 20 years

Diet

Omnivore

Grass, Seeds, Insects

Conservation Status

IUCN

Least Concern

The muscovy duck is a species of duck found in parts of South, Central and North America.

Here they are found near water. These birds are arboreal and will take to the trees at night to roost. Their claws are adapted for clinging on to trees.

This was one of the first waterfowl species to be domesticated. Often the domesticated individuals sport white feathers across most of their body in contrast to the black of wild individuals.

Nesting also takes place in trees where they will develop the nest in a tree hollow. Here females deposit their young which they provide care for, for up to 70 days.

Learn more about these brilliant birds by reading on below.

Appearance

What does the muscovy duck look like?

The wild type of the muscovy duck is colored black across the majority of the body with glossy, greenish plumage around parts of their body. A white patch is present on both wings.

Domesticated individuals are most often white with notable red patches around the beak and eye.

Their bill is colored pink at the tip and black at the base with a prominent, reddish knob on top of the beak in males. Females lack this.

The muscovy duck has long claws on each foot which help them to hold on to tree branches.

An adult will measure 84cm (33in) long with a wingspan of 154cm (61in) across. An average weight for the species is 4kg (9lbs). Males tend to be larger than females.

Diet

What does the muscovy duck eat?


These birds are omnivores. They feed on grasses, sedges, seeds, mangroves, invertebrates, small fish and crustaceans.

Muscovy Duck

Credit: Public Domain

Range

Where can you find the muscovy duck?

This species is found across North, South and Central America. They occur naturally in the following countries – Argentina; Belize; Bolivia; Brazil; Colombia; Costa Rica; Ecuador; El Salvador; French Guiana; Guatemala; Guyana; Honduras; Mexico; Nicaragua; Panama; Paraguay; Peru; Suriname, United States; Uruguay and Venezuela.

The species has been reintroduced following its extinction in Trinidad and Tobago.

They have been introduced to Chile and Puerto Rico.

Habitat

What kind of environment does the muscovy duck live in?

These birds are found in forest, marshes and wetland habitats.

They are found close to water and make use of shallow ponds and lagoons.

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Reproduction

How does the muscovy duck produce its young?

Breeding season lasts from August to May. Males are aggressive during the breeding season and will defend their territory.

The nest is developed in a tree hollow. Alternatively they may nest in a spot on the ground where camouflage is provided by surrounding vegetation. Their nest is formed with twigs and mud. This nesting pattern is more common in areas where hunting is uncommon.

Here the female will deposit between 8 and 15 eggs which are colored white. Between two and three clutches could be produced each year.

Their eggs are incubated for 33 to 35 days before hatching. It can take up to 24 hours for the chick to make its way out of the shell. They are cared for by their mother for 60 to 70 days.

Chicks are unable to manage their own body heat and as such they stay close to their mother who provides heat.

The ducklings are colored yellow with brownish markings.

Hens spend most of their time at the nest only leaving for 20 to 90 minutes to drink and eat.

At birth the young lack the white wing patches. These develop around one year of age.

Sexual maturity is reached between 28 and 29 weeks.

Behavior

What does the muscovy duck do with its day?

These birds are adept climbers. They are often seen in the trees. Muscovy ducks possess powerful claws which allow them to climb in to the trees.

They are active during the day. At night they will seek out a tree to roost in.

Their vocalizations include a quiet trilling or a low, breathy call.

These birds do not undergo a migration being a resident in their habitat year round.

Muscovy Duck

Credit: Public Domain

Predators and Threats

What is impacting the survival of the muscovy duck?

Predators of the muscovy duck include red foxes and domestic dogs.

Populations of the muscovy duck are said to be in decline. Their total population is estimated at somewhere between 50,000 and 499,999 individuals.

These animals are used for food and in the pet trade.

Quick facts

These birds are one of the oldest species of domesticated fowl in the world.

A male muscovy duck is known as a drake while the female is known as a hen.

Muscovy Duck

Credit: Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

References

Alderton, D. and Barrett, P., 2019. The complete illustrated encyclopedia of birds of the world. Lorenz Books.

BirdLife International. 2018. Cairina moschataThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T22680061A131911211. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T22680061A131911211.en. Downloaded on 17 November 2021.

Greater Vancouver Zoo. 2021. Animals | Greater Vancouver Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://gvzoo.com/animals/animal/?permalink=domestic-muscovy-duck> [Accessed 17 November 2021].

Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo. 2021. Muscovy Duck. [online] Available at: <https://www.beardsleyzoo.org/muscovy-duck.html> [Accessed 17 November 2021].

Riverviewparkandzoo.ca. 2021. Muscovy Duck. [online] Available at: <https://www.riverviewparkandzoo.ca/en/zoo/muscovy-duck.aspx> [Accessed 17 November 2021].

Oakvale Wildlife. 2021. Muscovy Duck | Our Animals | Oakvale Wildlife. [online] Available at: <https://oakvalewildlife.com.au/explore/our-animals/muscovy-duck> [Accessed 17 November 2021].

Schagene, A. 2010. “Cairina moschata” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 17, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Cairina_moschata/

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