Muscovy Duck

Cairina moschata

The Muscovy ducks at the park are often mistaken for geese, but they are just large ducks! These funny characters can be found wagging their tail feathers in excitement, especially when they see visitors bringing over food!

Species Information

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Muscovy ducks are native to the Americas, mainly found in Central and South America, and there are small populations in southern USA. They inhabit freshwater areas, forested swamps, and the nearby grasslands.

These large waterfowl are often mistaken for geese, especially the larger domestic breed. They have distinctive red, fleshy, wart-like growths on their face, known as caruncles. Small oil glands are found on caruncles which when stimulated – when dabbling in the mud or when preening for example – help to keep the duck’s feathers clean. Muscovy’s also have 2 sets of eyelids. The second eyelid, or ‘nictitating membrane’, is transparent and is closed and used when these ducks swim, to keep the eyes protected whilst not losing any vision. They also have strong claws on their webbed feet, which help them to perch in trees when they roost.

Their diet consists of grasses and other plant material largely. This is obtained by grazing and by dabbling in shallow water. They also feed upon herptiles, crustaceans, small fish, and invertebrates, especially flies and mosquitoes!

About 20 years.

These non-migratory birds are thought to be mute or ‘quackless’. They may not quack much, but males make a low-pitched hushing, hissing, and puffing sound, whereas females have a soft trilling vocalisation.

Unlike most duck species, Muscovy ducks are not monogamous and so do not mate for life, they are instead polygamous with males sometimes fighting to mate. In fact, Muscovy ducks often mate with other species, producing hybrid offspring. The female independently incubates and defends the 8-15 eggs laid in tree hollows and cavities, and also raises the ducklings by herself.

Least Concern, but the population is decreasing largely due to overhunting and habitat destruction.

Muscovy ducks wag their tails when they are happy and excited, much like a dog!