Muscovy Duck

Scientific Name
Cairina moschata
Also Known As
Barbary Duck, Muscovy
All of Florida
Plants, Grasses, Fish
Life Expectancy
5 Years

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American Crows in Central Florida

The muscovy duck (Cairina moschata) is a large waterfowl species that has become established in central Florida. Often seen perching in trees or nesting in urban areas, muscovy ducks stand out from mallards and other wild ducks.

This comprehensive guide provides detailed muscovy duck identification, biology, behavior, health risks, and management methods for central Florida.

Appearance and Identification

Muscovy ducks have distinctive features that aid in identification

Adult Muscovy Duck

Adult Muscovy Ducks

  • Size: Adults reach up to 33 inches (84 cm) long with a wingspan around 55 inches (140 cm). Males weigh 10 to 15 pounds (4.5 to 6.8 kg) while females reach 7 to 11 pounds (3.2 to 5 kg).
  • Plumage: Mostly blackish plumage with white wing patches. Green and purple iridescence on wings.
  • Face: Bright red caruncles on crown, cheeks, and bill. Black facial skin. Fleshy lobe under bill.
  • Legs: Robust black legs and feet webbed for swimming and perching. Long claws on feet.
Juvenile Muscovy Duck

Photo 197878110 © alexamestre, CC BY-NC

Juvenile Muscovy Ducks

  • Size: Newly hatched muscovy ducklings are around 3 inches (7.5 cm) long and weigh 1.5 to 2 ounces (40 to 55 grams). They reach full size by 10 to 12 weeks old.
  • Plumage: Juvenile plumage is yellowish with dark brown striping down the back. The wings show some green iridescence.
  • Face: Bare facial skin is pinkish in color. Caruncles or fleshy lobes develop on the crown and face.
  • Legs: Thick, black legs with fully webbed feet. Sharp claws on feet.

Muscovy drakes hiss and puff out caruncles when aggressive. The rounded tail and pink bill distinguish them from native ducks.

Muscovy Duck eggs

Photo 181874126 © Nicholas Canino, CC BY-NC

Muscovy Duck Eggs

  • Muscovy Duck eggs are large and elongated with a creamy white color. They lack spotting and have a unique texture.
  • Size: Muscovy eggs are 2.5-3.5 inches (63-89 mm) long and 1.9-2.4 inches (48-61 mm) wide. They are larger than most duck eggs.
  • Shape: The eggs have an elongate, oval shape with one end distinctly more pointed.
  • Color: The shell is creamy white without spots or markings.
  • Shell: It has a unique coarse, bumpy texture compared to smooth duck egg shells.
  • Clutch: Muscovies lay 8-15 eggs in a clutch, often in tree cavities or on the ground.
  • Nest: The eggs are incubated for 35 days by the female with the male guarding the nest

Maturation Rate

Muscovy ducklings grow rapidly, reaching full adult size by 12 weeks old. They are able to fly at 10 weeks and become independent after 12 weeks. Muscovies molt old feathers and grow adult plumage by 6 months of age.

Habits and Behavior

Muscovy ducks live near water bodies like lakes, ponds, and slow moving rivers. However, they often perch in trees and nest in tree cavities or building openings. Muscovy ducks are social and gather in small flocks.

Muscovies walk and swim awkwardly but can fly well. Males are aggressive during breeding season. Muscovy ducks are mostly active during the day while spending nights roosting. They tolerate heat well but require shelter in winter.