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April 16, 2010

Meet the Muscovy Duck

These ducks can be wild, domestic or feral

The Humane Society of the United States

  • Some Muscovys, like this adult male, retain the darker coloration of their wild forbearers. John Hadidian/The HSUS

  • Others, like this female show highly variable coloring. John Hadidian/The HSUS

  • Muscovy ducks, like most waterfowl, are devoted and attentive parents. Mary Brammall

  • Starting as an act of compassion, feeding can lead to conflicts between people and Muscovy ducks. John Hadidian/The HSUS

Muscovy ducks, native to Central and South America, were one of very few animals domesticated in the New World. Europeans took muscovies back home and spread them across the globe. At the same time, wild muscovy ducks continue to live from Mexico to South America and in the Caribbean. 

Today, people keep muscovies for food and as pets. Owners say they have a lot of personality. And the females giggle instead of quacking. People bred them for size, interesting colors, and exaggerated facial “caruncles” on drakes (male ducks).  But they are still the same species as the wild ducks. 

Abandoned domesticated muscovy ducks live wild where the climate is agreeable. These feral populations are most common in southeastern states, especially Florida.  They can aggregate in large numbers anywhere they are fed—making them unwelcome in many communities.

Meanwhile, wild muscovies recently moved from Mexico into Texas, bringing the entire species under the protection of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In recognition, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service issued regulations effective March 31, 2010, that will have major impacts on all muscovy ducks in the US. 

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