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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Muscovy Duck- The Lowdown

There is no online dating service for Muscovy ducks.

Imagine the profile! Is there a less judgemental word than ugly? How about visage challenged? Duckling faces are cute at hatching, but then maturity sets in.  Caruncles, red warty skin, appears on their faces. Males get wide coverage, but females have less.
This is extremely useful, because tipping these birds over to "look under their skirts"can be a challenge. They don't like their personal space invaded, and will fight you. Imagine being tipped upside down and having your nethers inspected!You might protest a bit, too.

Disposition? Cranky, for the males. At fourteen pounds or so as adults for drakes, cranky can be expressed energetically with powerful wings to beat you with, and long sharp talons to claw you with. Don't forget the bills; they can bite quick as a snake. Raised crests on their heads serves as an early warning system. We once had a three way drake fight here, and Art was able to wade in, sieze them one at a time from behind, and remove them from the field. They ignored him and strained to return to the fray. He kept all the sharp parts pointed away from his body as he put each bird into solitary.

Females are a bit more mellow, unless they are nesting. A Mama duck in a doghouse was the downfall of Joe Boxer, an old dog of ours. He was curious about this new doghouse we'd put out, and investigated. His head alone could fit in, but was quickly withdrawn, followed by a hissing head and snaking neck. Body flattened over her eggs, she struck at him each time his head got close. Poor fool kept trying to see what the problem was -- strong of body, weak of mind. After three our four bites he gave up, a full size boxer losing to a seven pound duck.

Are they available? You might think catching the"girls" was easier, since they are smaller and milder, but they  fly.ONly a catch net will help. I stood up suddenly one day and saw something looking like a feather covered bag of flour with wings flying at my head. The poor duck was pumping her wings as hard and as fast as she could, but she hadn't planned on the human standing up. She veered, I dropped and she wobbled over the fence. Two days later all the females flew out, returning for food and water. The males, far too heavy to get aloft, glared after them, stuck without female companionship.

Hobbies or talents? They hiss loudly, waggling their tails as they vocalize . Do not confuse a Muscovy tail wag with a dog tail wag, especially if the bird's crest is raised. They do not quack, so are actually quiet enough to be kept in the city.

Females have a lovely, warbling-cooing sound when they speak.
One of our girls used to sleep on the top of the mobile home. When I'd go out to work in the morning, she'd raise her head, and stare at me. I'm sure I was supposed to feel guilty for waking her up. Did I ask her to sleep right over the door? After she figured out who I was, most mornings she would warble a bit at me before she would tuck her head back to sleep some more. Six-thirty, 'o dark early, is too early for ducks.

The girls have hissing mastered for special occasions. A strong, menacing hiss for Joe Boxer, for instance, or someone else threatening their ducklings. It's the kind of hiss that says," I am no pushover, Back off!"

Muscovy dating is non-existant; no flowers, candy or even the courtship dance of the rooster is offered. A drake just grabs a likely female by the neck, squashes her flat, and has his way with her.He's twice the size she is, and she ends up severely rumpled and offended. Do you wonder why females fly over the fence as soon
as they're able?

What is their fanily life like? Challenging. This bird originated in South America and is a completely different species than the rest of the ducks of the world. As a result, breeding with another kind of duck will get a duckling that is sterile, like a mule. Duck-mules are good for eating, but not much else. Muscovy must meet up with Muscovy for serious continuation of the breed.

In the wild, females frequently nest in hollow trees. Have you ever seen film of duckings leaving a nest in a tree? They pop out, tumble down, and land with a bounce. What a way to start your life in the world. Amazingly, they survive it. Mama gathers them up and off they go to water. She is careful not to let them in the water too long; they have far less body oil than"regular" ducks, resulting in waterlogging and drowning. Muscovies don't need swimming water at all to survive, but they do enjoy it. water deep enough to clean their nostrils is fine with them.

Before you pity the poor, dateless Muscovy, know this. Ugly beyond reason, they have loads of personality and make devoted pets if hand raised. I find them lovable despite their looks and
fascinating to keep. After all, I am the Mother-of-All-Animals, what else can you expect?


  1. Of all the different ducks we have had out here this is my favorite. They are like geese in their love of treeing city folk. Feeding time is is always a hoot. If they are in a mixed pen, Muscovy eat first.
    I believe my favorite memory of thees ducks was taking them out to hunt grass hoppers. They would charge headlong at their prey and run over anyone in their path, people included.

  2. I'd forgotten how much they loved hunting grasshoppers. Do you remember the pinkie mice incident? Fascinating, yet horrifying how they gobbled them right down. They kept returning to that spot and looking....

  3. A neighbor of ours has one of these ducks. She took it out to swim when Village Lake became Village River. If you remember this is when I told you about the guy canoeing down the road.

  4. That must have been quite a picture -- Canoe Guy and his faithful duck retainer cruising down your street.