Cairina moschataMuscovy duck

Geographic Range

Muscovy ducks are native to Mexico, Central, and South America. Wild populations of Muscovy ducks live in the lower Rio Grande and in some parts of Texas. Muscovy ducks have also been domesticated and adapt well to colder climates. Feral populations are found in parts of North America, Canada, and Europe. (Agirrre and University of Southern Mississippi, 2008; Burke, 2009; Fish and Wildlife Service , Interior, 2008; Hillman and Earp, 2007; Standing Committee, 1999)


Muscovy ducks prefer to live in forest areas near water. They roost in trees at night and create nests in tree cavities. (Agirrre and University of Southern Mississippi, 2008; Burke, 2009; Smith, 2006; Standing Committee, 1999)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams

Physical Description

Muscovy ducks are large ducks, averaging 4.3 kilograms. The typical wingspan of a Muscovy duck is between 137 to 154 centimeters. Males are generally larger than females. Muscovy ducks have red, fleshy protuberances on the face. The plumage is brownish-black with iridescent green and purple dorsal plumage and with white wing patches. Domestic Muscovy ducks come in a wide variety of plumages, most are white, others are pied, buff, brown, chocolate, lilac, and blue. (Agirrre and University of Southern Mississippi, 2008; Burke, 2009; Harman, 1994; Smith, 2006)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • ornamentation
  • Range mass
    2.7 to 6.8 kg
    5.95 to 14.98 lb
  • Average mass
    4.3 kg
    9.47 lb
  • Range length
    66 to 84 cm
    25.98 to 33.07 in
  • Range wingspan
    137 to 152 cm
    53.94 to 59.84 in
  • Average wingspan
    145 cm
    57.09 in
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    290 cm3.O2/g/hr


Males raise their crests as a dominance display to other males. They also use their crest as a means of attracting female mates. Females seem to select larger males with the largest crests. There is high variation in male mating success; a few males mate with most of the females leaving most males unsuccessful in reproduction. Unsuccessful males form small bachelor groups. Muscovy ducks have been described as having a lek mating system. (Agirrre and University of Southern Mississippi, 2008; Burke, 2009; Harman, 1994; Smith, 2006)

Muscovy ducks breed from the beginning of August to May. During breeding season, dominant male ducks attract female ducks by wagging their tails and showing off their crests. After a female mates she builds a nest in a hollow tree usually 3 to 18 meters high. Nests are constructed of twigs, stems and mud. Females lay, on average, 8 to 10 eggs per laying effort. The incubation period is from 33 to 35 days. Females incubate the eggs and protect them until they hatch. Females protect nestlings for 60 to 70 days, until the young are independent. During this time females teach ducklings how to eat, what to eat, how to swim, and how to fend off enemies. After 28 weeks most females reach sexual maturity. Male Muscovy ducks take about 29 weeks to reach sexual maturity. (Agirrre and University of Southern Mississippi, 2008; Burke, 2009; Harman, 1994; Smith, 2006)

  • Breeding interval
    Muscovy ducks can breed 2 to 3 times a year.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs from early August to early May.
  • Range eggs per season
    24 to 30
  • Range time to hatching
    33 to 35 days
  • Range fledging age
    60 to 70 days
  • Range time to independence
    10 to 12 weeks
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    26 to 28 weeks
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    27 to 29 weeks

Female Muscovy ducks incubate and protect their young for 60 to 70 days, when they become independent. Males guard territories where females raise their broods. (Agirrre and University of Southern Mississippi, 2008; Burke, 2009; Harman, 1994; Smith, 2006)

  • Parental Investment
  • precocial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • protecting
      • male
      • female


Wild and domesticated Muscovy ducks typically live for 7 to 8 years. Muscovy ducks seem to be resistant to most diseases. Avian influenza leads to a 100% mortality rate and is an exception. (Burke, 2009; Smith, 2006)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    7 to 8 years
  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    9 (high) years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    7 to 8 years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    7 to 8 years


Muscovy ducks are social. They have a social hierarchy in which male Muscovy ducks protect territories that they establish by dominating other males with visual displays, such as crest displays. Males that are dominant maintain territories and mate with females that nest in those territories. Other males that live within the territory act as bachelors. They are non-migratory and active during the day. (Burke, 2009; Grzimek, 2003a; Harman, 1994; Smith, 2006)

Home Range

There is no information on home ranges in Muscovy ducks. (Burke, 2009; Harman, 1994; Smith, 2006)

Communication and Perception

Muscovy ducks communicate with visual cues, such as wagging their tails, and through vocalizations, such as hisses towards threats and quacks as contact calls. Other visual cues include raising and lowering their heads toward one another. During mating season males will raise their crest to establish dominance over other male ducks. Male ducks also raise their crest to attract females. (Burke, 2009; Smith, 2006)

Food Habits

Muscovy ducks are omnivorous. They feed on the roots, stems, leaves, and seeds of aquatic and terrestrial plants. They also feed on small fish, reptiles, crustaceans, insects, millipedes, and termites. Muscovy ducks dabble and graze with their bills to collect food. (Agirrre and University of Southern Mississippi, 2008; Burke, 2009; Harman, 1994; Smith, 2006)

  • Animal Foods
  • reptiles
  • fish
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • mollusks
  • aquatic crustaceans
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • roots and tubers
  • wood, bark, or stems
  • seeds, grains, and nuts


Muscovy ducks prefer to sleep in water during the night to easily escape predators. They use anti-predator responses such as alarm calling, freezing, and attempting to escape when disturbed. Known predators are dogs and red foxes. (Burke, 2009; Smith, 2006)

  • Known Predators
    • red foxes (Vulpes vulpes)
    • domestic dogs (Canis lupus famillaris)

Ecosystem Roles

Muscovy ducks, especially ducklings, may be important prey for terrestrial predators or aquatic and avian predators. They impact populations of aquatic and terrestrial vegetation and animals through their foraging. (Agirrre and University of Southern Mississippi, 2008; Burke, 2009; Harman, 1994; Standing Committee, 1999)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • creates habitat
Mutualist Species
  • Humans

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Muscovy ducks may help to control harmful insect populations through their foraging. They are also domesticated and are used for food and in other products. Domesticated Muscovy ducks are used in farms as a way of controlling pest populations of flies, snails, locusts, grasshoppers, and slugs. Muscovy ducks put into cow pens reduce fly populations by 80 to 90 percent. They are also kept by poultry enthusiasts. (Grzimek, 2003b; Harman, 1994; Standing Committee, 1999)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Muscovy ducks are aggressive in nature and will bite to protect themselves. Feral populations can also damage property. Muscovy ducks, along with other kinds of waterfowl, carry avian influenza virus subtype H5N1, which can be passed to humans. (Campagnolo, et al., 2001; Depart of Health and Human Services, 2005; Lesbarrères, 2008; Luca, et al., 2005; Standing Committee, 1999)

Conservation Status

Although wild populations seem to be declining, Muscovy ducks are common in their native range. Domesticated Muscovy ducks are common and widespread. Feral populations now live in areas outside of their native range. They are not considered threatened currently.


Allen Schagene (author), Centre College, Stephanie Fabritius (editor, instructor), Centre College, Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map


uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


a wetland area rich in accumulated plant material and with acidic soils surrounding a body of open water. Bogs have a flora dominated by sedges, heaths, and sphagnum.

causes or carries domestic animal disease

either directly causes, or indirectly transmits, a disease to a domestic animal


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
dominance hierarchies

ranking system or pecking order among members of a long-term social group, where dominance status affects access to resources or mates


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.


having more than one female as a mate at one time


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

sexual ornamentation

one of the sexes (usually males) has special physical structures used in courting the other sex or fighting the same sex. For example: antlers, elongated tails, special spurs.


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


uses sight to communicate

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born


Agirrre, W., University of Southern Mississippi. 2008. "Cairina Moschata (Linnaeus, 1758)" (On-line). Accessed March 28, 2009 at

Burke, D. 2009. "Muscovy Pet Road Tests > Birds" (On-line). Muscovy. Accessed March 26, 2009 at

Campagnolo, E., M. Banerjee, B. Panigraphy, R. Jones. 2001. An Outbreak of Duck Viral Enteritis (Duck Plague) Domestic Muscovy Ducks. Avian Diseases, 45(2): 522-528.

Depart of Health and Human Services, 2005. "Centers for Disease Control and Prevention" (On-line). Influenza Viruses. Accessed March 31, 2009 at

Fish and Wildlife Service , Interior, 2008. "Federal Register Fish and the Wildlife Service" (On-line). Accessed March 28, 2009 at

Grzimek, B. 2003. Domestication of birds/artificial selection. Pp. 21 in J Jackson, W Bock, D Olendorf, eds. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia, Vol. Volume 8-11, Second Edition. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group.

Grzimek, B. 2003. Significance to humans. Pp. 373 in J Jackson, W Bock, D Olendorf, eds. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia, Vol. Volume 8-11, Second Edition Edition. Farmington Hills, MI: The Gale Group Inc.

Harman, H. 1994. "Farm Radio International" (On-line). Muscovy Ducks are Easy to raise and they control flies. Accessed March 29, 2009 at

Hillman, J., E. Earp. 2007. "Cairnia Moshcata Muscovy Duck" (On-line). Accessed March 31, 2009 at

Lesbarrères, D. 2008. Avian Influenze Virus (H5N1) Mortality Surveillance. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 14(7): 1176-1178. Accessed March 30, 2009 at

Luca, B., N. Alda, V. Marta, C. Damiano, M. Franco, A. Fabrizio. 2005. First Report of Parasitic Esophagitis by Streptocara incognita in Muscovy Ducks (Cairina moschata domesticus) in Italy. Avian Diseases, Volume 49: 298-300. Accessed April 01, 2009 at

Peterson, A. 2006. "ITIS Report" (On-line). Cairina Moschata. Accessed March 27, 2009 at

Rodrigues, A., J. Pilgrim, J. Lamoreux, M. Hoffmann, T. Brooks. 2005. The Value of the IUCN Red List for conservation. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 21(2): 71-76.

Smith, D. 2006. "Backyard Poultry" (On-line). Muscovy Ducks. Accessed April 01, 2009 at

Standing Committee, 1999. "Human Rights and Legal Affairs" (On-line). RECOMMENDATION CONCERNING MUSCOVY DUCKS (CAIRINA MOSCHATA) AND HYBRIDS OF MUSCOVYAND DOMESTIC DUCKS (ANAS PLATYRHYNCHOS). Accessed March 28, 2009 at,_use_of_animals/farming/Rec%20Muscovy%20ducks%20E%201999.asp.