Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Muscovy love

Amorous Cairina moschata domesticus.

Last summer our friend Jen gave us three white Muscovy ducks (one male and two females).



In the world of domestic ducks, there are Mallards, lots of ducks derived from Mallards, and Muscovies.

In researching Muscovies I was surprised to find how long they'd been domesticated - at least 500 years and possibly more. Columbus saw them in the West Indies.

They don't quack like other ducks; the males hiss and the females make a sort of trilling noise. (The trilling is actually a soothing sound. The hissing, not so much.)

They don't walk like other ducks; the head lunges back and forth while the tail wags from side to side. They pretty much do this when they're standing still too.

They don’t like the water as much as other ducks, but can fly better than most.

They are also fairly ugly. They have bright red warty areas around their bills. The wild version (in Latin America) is mostly black, and is infinitely more attractive. Domestic Muscovies are usually black and white. To me the pure white ones are more handsome.

Everything is exaggerated on the males: their size is much larger, they exhibit bigger lunging movements and more tail wagging, and they have an expanded warty area (for extra ugly).





You might wonder why we wanted them.

Because homestead lore claims that they love to eat mosquitoes. Really though I think that ducks love to eat just about any bug that they can catch.

You can make pets out of chickens, especially if you start handling them when they're very young. But you'll never make friends with a duck. They just don’t want to have that much to do with you.

In this the Muscovies are also different, especially the males. Ours likes to follow us around.

If you stand still anywhere in the yard for more than a minute he'll be right beside you, lunging, wagging, and hissing. If you stand still long enough, he'll nibble at your feet.

While you're still thinking “Oh how cute!” he'll start pulling on your pants leg. At first it seems funny, but if you don't move away within a few seconds, he’ll alternate pinching and stabbing you with his bill. Hard!

Once I figured out this behavior, naturally I tried not to stand still for very long if he's around. But sometimes he's insistent and will run after me. Muscovies are the cheetahs of the duck world. You can't outrun them.

I'm divided on whether this is hate or love on the part of the Muscovy... territorial response or misplaced affection?



24 comments:

shannon said...

Hey! It's Shannon stopping by :) The thing I love about Muscovies (even though I don't know if we'll ever get any since DH is horrified by their appearance and noises *grin* is that they are actually different, chromosomally, from domesticated ducks...I've always wanted to mate a mucscovy with another breed and get "mule ducks" - wonder if they're hardier then regular waterfowl?!

Rurality said...

Thanks for stopping by Shannon! I've seen muscovy/mallard crosses at park lakes before. They look like regular muscovies, only a little smaller, and normally have some of the mallard coloring - especially the shiny green feathers.

We may be finding out what muscovy and runner duck crosses look like in the spring... I'll let you know.

The female white muscovies are actually very endearing! I always call them the little darlings. They get picked on a lot by the male runners though.

jenni said...

hey, i love the photos on your blog! We have these ducks at the park that look like roosters, they have a wattle, are they a variety of this breed? i wrote a poem about one once, I just called it a "rooster duck"--but I would like to know the real name of it...

Rurality said...

Thanks! Hmm I don't think I've ever seen a duck with a wattle. You mean the fleshy part that hangs down from the neck, right? I have seen geese with knobs on their heads (like here). But haven't seen any of those with wattles either. Will have to think about that one.

Muscovies are at parks a lot and they are the only ducks I can think of with red around their heads like that.

Susan said...

Neat! I'll be watching for pics/posts on the young if you get any! I've been thinking about getting some of these ducks because of the mosquitoe story! I also heard they will kill small snakes. I wonder if there's anything to these tales, or if it's all some big conspiracy bu the Secret Society of Muscovy Maniacs! LOL

Susan

Rurality said...

Well between the chickens and ducks, there is not a bug to be found in the yard. In the woods there are a million ticks, but none where the chickens wander.

I did see a pullet with a small snake last year. All the other chickens were trying to take it away from her, it was hilarious.

Kyla said...

Hi. I just found your page. My grandparents live at Lake Martin in Alabama, and I've fed ducks for years that I called hissing ducks. I believe they are Muscovy crosses. Like Jenni said, the males have a wattle and they are bigger than normal ducks. I havent seen them in a few years, but they were there all through my childhood. If you have seen ones like these, let me know.
kyla_mg@yahoo.com

Jenn said...

Muscovies!!!! My favorite little critter with wings! We live in an apartment complex in FL with a massive man-made lake out back... and every one of the forty ducks who live out there knows us well. We go out and feed them regularly, some of them know their names, they all know to wait their turn to be fed (though when impatient, they will rap you on your leg, arm, toe, whatever with their bill) and many of the mothers let us play with their ducklings... which are SO cute! I applaud you for having muscovies... they ROCK!

Anonymous said...

hi i love muscovies big fan of em! love ya pics they're gugus i have 2 custard and pepe both beautiful pepe was handraised and shes beautiful! love her dnt know waht i wud do witout her! well bibi xXxX

Candace said...
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Sharyn said...

Thank you SO much for making a blog about Muscovies (or, as my dad calls them, Scoobies). I've been feeding a large male Muscovy and a smaller tan female duck for about two years now. It's gotten to the point where I will quack from one side of the lake, and the tan duck will quack back, and she and the 'Scovy will swim all the way across for their daily snack of duck chow.

Bearneeve said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rurality said...

I am very sorry to have to remove that last very thoughtful comment! But it had a few words in it that will trip out the filters and won't let certain people view the blog at all. One of my family members is a teacher and likes to show the animal pictures to her kids... but they can't see it when the filters are tripped... sorry about that! If you would like to comment again, please do so, leaving out those trigger words - you can probably figure out which ones I'm talking about. Thanks.

Bearneeve said...

We live in Fort Lauderdale (South Florida) where Muscovy ducks are plentiful and we live by the water. A male with various females have established their 6th nest in our yard over the past year. They might not be the cutest birds but like anything else, you grow to like what you grow to know. These animals are fascinating and actually very cute. Their behavior to some extent reminds of human beings (agressivity, tenderness, difference in personality, ….). Babies are beyond cute the very day they are born but most die within 2-3 weeks. They need their mother for protection only, because they can eat and swim the day they are born. The female lays one egg per day in a nest always in a very secluded part of the yard. You can get near but never within reaching distance and a cold spell that defoliated my hibiscuses exposed one nest that was readily abandoned! She starts sitting on the nest only after she has laid 20-25 eggs. A brood is usually 15-17 ducklings - the rest does not hatch-. Once you get to know them it is easy to spot what is going on in their life because their behavior changes drastically as they mate, as they sit on the nest, as the babies are born etc... Each phase corresponds to a very different attitude. The ducklings are raised by their mother only. If the mother gets to know you, you can grab a duckling (they are silkier than silk) and release it. At first she will scream but she quickly gets used to it. Males are much larger than females and they grow that red skin on their face which females do not. Males hiss and females tend to clock more like a chicken than a duck “quack”. The females will quack when they are being chased or bitten by another duck (to establish pecking order). Our male –pioupiou- is very mallow and quite a gentle duck but some males can be indeed aggressive. In 3 years that I have observed them, they never attacked us. If you stand your ground, they are afraid of you and will readily take off if you chase them

joe job said...

As of april 29 2008 my neighbours muscovy mom & mallard cross have 27 eggs laid. Should be fun to watch when they start to hatch. we are in London, Ont, Canada

Kerry said...

Good Stuff!!! Great Blog My girls are sitting now with (my)their first clutch due any minute

Anonymous said...

I have a muscovy baby duckling thats about three weeks old. WE are giving her away because i found ou that there are a lot more aggressive and that they actually grow little tiny sharp teeth. And personally im pron to mallards and i wanted to try a different kind of duck and this type of duck is very mean and aggresive. I do not reccommend this type a duck for a family espeically a family will small children!!!!

vi said...

we have muscovy, our foundation drake is semi feral but respects me.....my girls all want to be cuddled and held.
my new babies are being raised the same as my girl so they are all very tame. it makes a difference if they have to go to the vet

Jacque said...

Jacque Said...
Hi This is Jacque from Sarasota Florida. We rescued some Muscovy hatchlings in a construction area. The mother had over 20 and we were were only able to get her to accept half of them. So I took the other 13 home. After 2 weeks a black snack kept trying to get them thru my screen on my lanai.So I thought the would be better off at save our seabirds. 3 days later 3 were dead..they had no idea why? So I scooped up the remaining 10. Ita been about 6 weeks since. I do love them, but am hopingI can set them free to the wild. Or to a nice family who has a alligator free pond. Know anyone in the area? my email is jacqueline.cisneros@ymail.com.

vi said...

it is illegal to set muscovy free anywhere.

vi said...

it is illegal to set muscovy free anywhere.

Rurality said...

Jacque, Vi is right. Please do not release your birds into the wild. In Florida especially, they are a nuisance species, and I believe they compete with native ducks.

Contact your local authorities for advice. I think they have changed the federal laws a few times, and I'm not sure what the current rules are.

TheStudent said...

Actually if you raise any duck from when its a tiny baby they will follow you around anywhere and love you just like your muscovies. dont know if its their temperment overall but the ones you got sound like theyve already imprinted on people so thats why theyre freindly. I had a khaki campbell from when it was a tiny little thing and it did that too...ducks are pretty awesome funny creatures! :)

Anonymous said...

About the snakes - yes, one of my Muscovy ducks ate a small snake today. I love snakes but he grabbed it without asking me. I'm surprised he got it down - it was about as long as he was! (He's about 9 weeks old.)