Masked Duck, Nomonyx dominicus

The Masked Duck (Nomonyx dominicus) is a small stiff-tailed duck ranging through the tropical Americas. They’re found from Mexico to South America and also in the Caribbean. They are primarily non-migratory. Masked Ducks are reported as very uncommon vagrants in the southernmost part of the United States, along the Mexican border and in Florida.

Being the only member of the genus Nomonyx, it’s intermediate between the rather primitive Black-headed Duck (Heteronetta) and the very apomorphic true stiff tails. It’s sometimes included with the latter in the genus Oxyura, but apparently the Masked Ducks of our time are the descendants of a missing link in the Oxyurinae evolution, having changed little for millions of years.

Breeding adult males have a rust colored body with mottled wings and a black face. Adult females, winter males, and juveniles have a barred brownish gray body, with two horizontal darkly colored stripes running through the buffy colored face.

These Masked Ducks mainly feed on seeds, roots, and leaves of aquatic plants. They also eat aquatic insects and crustaceans. They feed by diving underwater. Masked Ducks breed in any fresh water body with marsh vegetation and surrounded by heavy tree cover. They also occur in mangrove swamps. These ducks are normally very secretive, but they aren’t rare and not considered threatened by the IUCN.

Image Caption: Masked Duck, Nomonyx dominicus. Credit: Fbiole/Wikipedia