Muscovy Ducks (also sometimes spelled: Muskovy or Muskovies)

The Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata) – also known as Musky Duck or Barbary Duck – is a large, hardy perching duck that has been attracting a lot of attention in recent years – particularly in North America, where it has been expanding its range in the last decade.

In their natural range of South America, they are often referred to as “Musco ducks” as they eat many mosquitoes.

On BeautyOfBirds, the Muscovy generated many more inquiries and comments than any other duck or goose species – about at a ratio of 1 : 10.

Most people are simply curious about them; some dislike them for their messiness, aggression and odd appearance, while others appreciate them for their intelligence, friendly and trusting personality and their distinctive appearance.

For these reason alone, Muscovies are increasingly kept as backyard pets and even exhibition birds.

The origin of the Muscovy’s name is unknown. It is not from Moscow; and even though it is commercially known as “Barbary Duck,” it is also not native to Barbary.

Ducks or Geese?

Many believe that Muscovies are more geese than ducks – in fact, often they are referred to as “Muscovie Geese” for the following reasons:

  • Muscovy ducks don’t quack as is typical of other Index of Duck Species and are generally quiet.
  • Their eggs take longer to hatch than other duck eggs—35 days. Unlike all other breeds of ducks, which brood the eggs only for about 28 days.
  • All domesticated ducks originate from the Mallard, with the exception of the Muscovy which has distinct origins in South America.

Muscovy Ducklings

Alternate (Global) Names for Muscovy Ducks:

Spanish: Bragado, Pato criollo, Pato negro, Pato Real, Pato real o negro … Portuguese: asa-branca, cairina, gamaleão, pato, pato-bravo, pato-bravo-verdadeiro, pato-crioulo, Pato-do-mato, pato-picaço, pato-selvagem … Italian: Anatra muschiata, Anatra muta … French: Canard de Barbarie, Canard musqué … German: Moschusente … Irish: Musclacha … Bulgarian: ???????? ?????? … Catalan: Ànec mut …. Danish: Moskusand … Estonian: muskuspart … Finnish: Myskisorsa … Icelandic: Moskusönd … Japanese: nobariken … Lithuanian: Muskusin? antis … Dutch: Muskus eend, Muskuseend … Norwegian: Knoppand, Knoppand (Domestisert: Moskusand) … Swedish: Myskand … Turkish: Amerikan Örde?i

Female Muscovie

Distribution / Range

Muscovies are native to Mexico, Central and South America – but they originated in Brazil.

This non-migratory (resident) species normally inhabits forested swamps, lakes and streams. At night, they often roost in trees.

Some domesticated muscovies have escaped into the wild and now breed outside their native range, including in Western Europe and the United States.

In the United States, they are common in Florida and southern Texas (expanding northward). Individual birds or flocks (usually family groups) in San Francisco (Stow Lake inside of Golden Gate Park), Michigan, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

In Canada, several are found along the Thames River, London, Ontario and one immature brown-phase immature birds was spotted in Windsor, Ontario (2012).

Europe and Japan:

Muscovies have also been reported in United Kingdom

Two (believed to be males) were reported to be resident at the lake in Naas, Kildare, Ireland (1/3/2014).

One report of France and another report (with photo) of a male duck in Okinawa, Japan (obviously introduced).

Turkey (2013)

Australia: One immature Muscovy male was sighted in Loxton on the Murray River in Australia.

These ducks appear to be spreading fast – and most of them are probably either escapes or offspring of captive birds that were originally imported for the meat market or by breeders. Anyhow, this tropical breed has proven itself to be capable of adapting to varying climates. The robust and hardy Muscovy ducks have adapted to extremely cold conditions quite easily.

Brown-phase Muscovies

Calls / Vocalizations

Muscovies have very different vocalizations from other ducks.

Male Muscovies have a dry hissing call – often “wagging” their tail and fluffing up the feathers on their crown at the same time.

The female’s make quiet trilling “pip” sounds. It is reminiscent to a flute quickly alternating between the notes F and G.

Breeding / Nesting

Both males and females reach reproductive maturity when they are about one year old; although at that young age, they have not yet necessarily attained their full body mass.

This species – like the Mallard – does not form stable pairs. Forced intercourse has been observed in feral populations. Popular males are often seen with up to four females – potentially the entire female population in the group; while the remaining males “hang out” in bachelor groups. However, the female may also mate with other males.

The hen lays a clutch of 8-10 white eggs and communal nests may contain up to 21 eggs. The nest is usually situated in a tree hole or hollow, which are incubated for 34 – 36 days, as opposed to 28 days in other duck breeds.

Muscovy hens can produce up to three clutches a year.

The mother duck will keep her brood of ducklings together to protect them from predators. The eggs and ducklings are preyed upon by raccoons, large turtles, birds of prey, large fish and snakes.

Muscovy ducklings generally start flying when they are about 3 months old, at which time their flight feathers are typically fully developed.

Nesting is facilitated by the use of nest boxes. Muscovies will readily accept a wide range of nesting boxes, from large wood duck-like boxes with 6″ to 8″ diameter entrance holes to igloo-shaped half barrels, to l’ by 2′ ground nest boxes with either side or end-entry holes, to naturally occurring hollow trees and stumps.

Hybrids: If Muscovies are mated to other domestic breeds, they produce young that are commonly known as Mulard Ducks (“mule ducks”) – in reference to their sterility. Male hybrids produce abnormal sperm and are, therefore, mostly sterile; however, about one out of every thirty male is able to produce young. The female Muscovies are always sterile.

Muscovy Hybrids

Relevant Resources

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