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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Muscovy Ducks

I remember first seeing one of these bumpy red-faced ducks by the Cooper River in Camden, New Jersey, when I was a child. At first I thought it was bleeding, then I thought it must be a mutant. Years later I discovered that's how it's supposed to look! It is one of the most striking looking birds you are likely to encounter in a city park.

The Muscovy duck is low-slung and long, with a wide flat tail. 

If you try to look up the Muscovy duck in a field guide, though, you probably won't find it. (And just when you are thinking that you have found the best field marks ever: a giant brightly patterned duck with red facial skin and a fleshy bump over the bill.) The ones we see in city parks are feral domestic ones, escaped from the barnyard and established in the wild. Most field guides don't include them because they are considered domestic birds. 

Wild Muscovy ducks are native to Mexico, Central, and South America. Wild ones are black with glossy greenish backs and large white patches on their wings; they are rarely seen north of Texas in the United States. Domestication produced the all black, all white, and seemingly endless forms of piebald black-and-white that we see in parks. 
Click on any of the photos to enlarge them. 


  1. I recently saw a M/F pair of these ducks in North Park, in southwest PA. My wife and I had dubbed them "zombie ducks" before we figured out what they actually were. Don't know if they were escapees from a local farm or what, but they're certainly welcome around here to add a bit more variety to the standard Mallard/Goose population.

    1. I remember the first ones I ever saw and how startling and confusing they are! Glad you figured them out. They certainly are a colorful addition to the duck pond. :-) Julie

  2. There are 3 if tgese interesting looking ducks who waddle through my backyard daily. I live in Southampton Twp. New Jersey.

    1. That sounds nice. I wonder where they are going. I'll bet there is water nearby.