Ducks

Natural History

Muscovy ducks (Cairina moschata) were first domesticated by Native Americans and are native to the Americas. Today, domesticated Muscovy ducks are raised on farms for food. Their farm diet mostly consists of grains and grasses. Some wild populations still exist but they are considered an invasive species because they have moved out of their native areas. Their ideal environment consists of wetlands near forests, here they can feed on aquatic plants, grasses, and insects as well as a plethora of amphibians, crustaceans and millipedes.

Sexual dimorphism is apparent with Muscovy ducks. The males are twice the size (up to 15 pounds) of females (up to 7 pounds) and have different plumage coloration and patterns. One example is the pinkish, red waddle on the males’ bill, which is much brighter and larger than the females’. Their calls can also be easily distinguished with males having a low, hissing call and females having a quite, trilling quack.

Muscovy ducks can become stressed easily, so it’s important handle them with care. Touching their backs is generally okay but you should avoid touching their heads. Their webbed feet are also sensitive, so be extra careful not to harm them! Muscovy ducks can be held but be warned that this is not a preferred activity. If holding is a necessity, make sure that you secure their wings against their body while holding them like a football under your arm. Don’t forget to support those feet! If the duck becomes too stressed, it may try and fly out of your arms. As a safety precaution, go onto one knee to release the duck. This will help minimize the potential for injuring our feathered friend.

The Maymont Farm adopted Ashley, the Muscovy duck, after her previous owners abandoned her on Maymont’s grounds. We do not accept animal donations but we made a very special exception for Ashley. We have no way of knowing how old she is, since she was dropped off without any information, but she is at least six years old (arrived in 2009). Shortly after joining the Maymont farm family, Ashley joined with a flock of geese on the property. This was a natural transition for her because Muscovy ducks stay in flocks and Ashley, being quite sociable, joined right in.

After the last goose in that flock passed away, Ashley connected with an Araucana hen named Clementine. The two were inseparable and the best of friends but Clementine has since passed. Ashley has found some new friends in the goat pen next to the barn and classroom.  You can find her hanging out with our goats, usually in her special corner, being the natural socialite we all know her to be!

Fun Facts

  • Domesticated Muscovy ducks as also referred to as “Barbary ducks”.
  • Muscovy ducks have webbed feet that are clawed on the ends to help them move on land easier.
  • Their feathers are waterproof and help keep them insulated when they are in the water.
  • Muscovy ducks make excellent pets because they have a peaceful temperament.
  • They roost in trees at night.

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