Last updated on April 19, 2014 at 1:20 EDT

Muscovy Duck

The Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata) is a large perching duck which is an inland breeder found in central and tropical South America. It is a species whose normal habitat is forest lakes and streams. This non-migratory bird is often found roosting in trees at night. Its most distinguishing feature is its bare red face, with a more pronounced caruncle at the base of the drake’s bill. Other distinguishing features include a low crest of feathers that it can raise on its head, long talons on its feet and a wide flat tail. The drake has a dry hissing call, and the hen a quiet trilling coo.

A Muscovy hen can lay eggs to three times each year with an average clutch size of 8-21 eggs which it usually lays in a tree hole or hollow. The eggs are incubated for 35 days.

It has benefited from nest boxes in Mexico, but is uncommon in much of the east of its range due to persecution. It grazes or dabbles on plant material found in shallow water.

This species is widely domesticated and known as the Barbary Duck. This breed is popular because it has stronger-tasting meat, much like roast beef, and is less noisy. The carcass of a Muscovy duck is also much heavier than most other types of ducks, which make them ideal for the dinner table. Wild birds are all-dark apart from the white in the wings, but domesticated birds often have other plumage features. They are usually also bulkier than the wild birds. Muscovy hens range from 5 to 10 pounds (2 to 5 kg), while drakes are commonly 10 to 15 pounds (5 to 7 kg). Domesticated birds have re-escaped into the wild and now breed outside the native domain, including western Europe and the United States. It can be crossed with the domestic duck in captivity to produce hybrids which are known as Mulard Duck (“mule duck” because they are sterile) and are often used in the production of foie gras.

Muscovy Duck