Wed Mar 2023

Muscovy Duck*

You’ve never heard of a Muscovy Duck? Neither did I, until three of them appeared on the pond one day in May 2007. They are domestic waterfowl, raised for their meat, which is said to be less fatty and more flavorful than other duck meat. This one may have escaped from a farm. On the table, they are often referred to as “Barbary Duck.”

From its large size, I judge this to be a drake (a male), as the hens (females) are much smaller, about half the size. These domestic ducks sport a variety of plumage patterns and colors, including blue, green, lavender, pied and all-white. Both sexes have red or pink nude faces, and fleshy wattles at the base of the bill. The male also bears a small knob at the top of the bill base. (Click the photo to see these details more clearly.)

Wild Muscovy Ducks are native to Mexico, and Central and South America, and have been bred since pre-Columbian times by Native Americans. Large feral populations have taken root in the southern parts of Texas and Florida, where they are often considered a nuisance. Small feral populations have also been reported as far north as southern Canada.

There is a long-standing dispute as to the origin of the name: some experts believe that it derives from one or another place name; others claim it refers to the strong musk odor the duck exudes.

The all-white Muscovy Ducks that appeared in 2007 were tame, allowing me to approach them closely. Sadly, predictably, they did not survive the winter. The survival skills of this individual? The jury is out.

I took this photo on May 25, 2013, an overcast day, when this rare visitor came close to shore. Two days later I saw him again, for the last time.

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