Just Another Pretty Face

Lisa G. Putman

Joined November 2007

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The Muscovy Duck had probably been domesticated for centuries by South American Indigenous cultures at the time of its introduction to European colonialists.

How the muscovy inherited its name is not entirely known. It is not from Moscow. Though it is commercially known as Barbary Duck it is also not native to Barbary.

The Domestic Muscovy duck is matrilineally descended from the wild Muscovy Duck. While the majority of its patrilinear ancestors were also wild Muscovy Ducks, the males of two other wild species also contributed their demes.

The South American Comb Duck drake was crossed with the first semi-domestic founders. Males of this hybrid have limited fertility whereas the females are sterile. The f1 hybrids show marked hybrid vigour and are much larger than either wild species. Though the majority of the male hybrids produce abnormal sperm and are thus, for all intents and purposes, one out of every thirty is likely to be fully fecund.

As Muscovy Ducks lay large clutches and can be encouraged to produce up to three clutches of offspring a year, the selective breeding regimes of the South American Indian cultures were successful in producing dramatically larger domestic muscovy with unusual coloration making individuals recognizeable. This is critical in the development of domestic breeds.

Once the domestic Muscovy Duck reached the Phillipines and Indonesia it readily became the most important poultry for many European settlements for the qualities of the meat and tolerance of heat and wet.

At some point, Europeans and/or their Asian neighbors either indavertently or purposely hybridized the now critically endangered White Winged Wood Duck to their domestic Muscovy Ducks. The White Winged Wood Duck is much closer related to the Muscovy Duck than the Comb Duck. Fertile male offspring were bred back into the domestic Muscovy Duck gene pool in high enough numbers to introduce a number of new traits into the populations of founders that reached African and European Shores.

This breed is popular because it has stronger-tasting meat, like roast beef, and is less noisy. The carcass of a Muscovy Duck is also much heavier than that of most other domesticated ducks, which make it ideal for the dinner table.

Domesticated birds, like those pictured, often features differing plumage from that of wild birds, and are also usually also bulkier.

Muscovy hens range in weight from 2 to 5 kg (5 to 10 pounds), while drakes are commonly 5 to 7 kg (10 to 15 pounds). Domesticated birds can breed up to three times each year. Some have escaped into the wild and now breed outside the native domain, including in western Europe and the United States.

The Muscovy Duck can be crossed with the domestic duck in captivity to produce hybrids which are known as Mulard Duck (“mule duck”) because they are sterile) and are often used in the production of foie gras

The wild Muscovy Duck is all-dark apart from the white in the wings, with long talons on its feet and a wide flat tail.

Numerous colorations are now seen, including all, or mostly, white muscovies and even some brown-phase specimens.
The male is 86 cm long and weighs 3 kg, much larger than the 64 cm long, 1.3 kg female. His most distinctive features are a bare red face with a pronounced caruncle at the base of the bill and a low erectile crest of feathers.

Hens and juvenile birds have smaller, less bumpy face masks. They are smaller with a more slender appearance than the male.


Artwork Comments

  • Robert Elliott
  • velveteagle
  • Rick Playle
  • Tamara  Kenneally
  • Phillip M. Burrow
  • Kimberly Chadwick
  • Bellavista2
  • Lisa G. Putman
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