Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata)

Muscovy Duck

[order] ANSERIFORMES | [family] Anatidae | [latin] Cairina moschata | [authority] Linnaeus, 1758 | [UK] Muscovy Duck | [FR] Canard musque | [DE] Moschusente | [ES] Pato Criollo | [NL] Muskuseend


Monotypic species


It has two species, which are similar anatomically but quite distinct in external morphology. These were initially placed as type genus in the “Cairininae” (or “Cairinini”), a supposed group of “perching ducks” which was somewhat intermediate between dabbling ducks and shelducks. However, this assemblage turned out to be paraphyletic, and the Cairina species were moved to the dabbling duck subfamily Anatinae, to which they seemed closest from the data available at that time. Analysis of the mtDNA sequences of the cytochrome b and NADH dehydrogenase subunit 2 genes (Johnson & Sorenson, 1999), meanwhile, has indicated that this is probably not correct, and that moreover the two species usually united in Cairina are not even closely related to each other, which is also suggested by the biogeography of their distribution: The Muscovy Duck seems a distant relative to the genus Aix which for example contains the North American Wood Duck. Together, they appear related to the shelducks and C. moschata would thus be placed in the Tadorninae. The White-winged Wood Duck, on the other hand – which has sometimes been allied with the enigmatic Hartlaub’s Duck (Madge & Burns, 1987) – should according to the molecular analysis moved to its old genus, Asarcornis, and could in fact be a peculiar diving duck.

Physical charateristics

Muscovy ducks are brownish-black in coloration with iridescent green and purple dorsal plumage and white wing patches. The legs and feet are grayish-black and the iris is yellowish-brown. Males and females are similar in appearance; however, males are nearly twice as large as females. In addition, males have a patch of bare black skin surrounded by pinkish-red caruncles (fleshy outgrowths) which extends from the back of the eye to the bill.

Listen to the sound of Muscovy Duck

[audio: Duck.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 38 cm wingspan max.: 48 cm
size min.: 25 cm size max.: 31 cm
incubation min.: 35 days incubation max.: 37 days
fledging min.: 55 days fledging max.: 37 days
broods: 3   eggs min.: 13  
      eggs max.: 16  


North America, Latin America : South Texas to North Argentina


Muscovies prefer wetlands near forested areas and nest in tree cavities or nest boxes


The muscovy duck is found in all parts of the world in a domesticated state. Its chief breeding range in the wild includes Central America and northern South America. In North America, muscovies are found locally in Mexico and a small population inhabits southern Texas at the extreme northern edge of its range. Muscovies prefer wetlands near forested areas and nest in tree cavities or nest boxes laying an average of 8 eggs.

Feeding habits

Muscovy ducks feed on the roots, stems, leaves, and seeds of aquatic and terrestrial plants, including agricultural crops. They also eat small fishes, reptiles, crustaceans, insects, millipedes, and termites

Video Muscovy Duck


copyright: youtube


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Estimated to have between 100,000-1,000,000 individuals. Currently populations are thought to be declining. Despite a wide distribution, the muscovy duck is only locally common in less populated areas in the eastern part of its range as a result of hunting and habitat loss.
Muscovy Duck status Least Concern


Muscovy ducks are sedentary and do not have established migration patterns. However, they may move in response to fluctuating water conditions. Muscovy ducks are endemic to the Neotropical Realm. They are widespread and fairly common in tropical regions of Mexico, Central America, and South America west of the Andes south to Ecuador, and east of the Andes south to northern Argentina and Uruguay. Originally form South America, some escaped birds have settled on the European continent.

Distribution map

Muscovy Duck distribution range map


Title Activities of tabanids (Diptera, Tabanidae) attacking domestic duck-Cairina moschata (Linnaeus) (Aves, Anatidae), introduced in a forest area in the Central Amazon, Manaus, Brazil
Author(s): Ruth L. M. Ferreira & Jose A. Rafael
Abstract: Presented here are the feeding habits, attack beha..[more]..
Source: Revista Brasileira de Entomologia 48(2): 283-286

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