Sunday Duck ‘o the Week

It’s Sunday, and that means we have John Avise‘s Duck o’ the Week quiz. He’s been sending photographs of North American ducks, one species per week, and your job is to guess that species.

Here’s a common one, and look at the pictures before guessing. If you go below the fold, you’ll get the ID, some fun duck facts, and a range map.  John’s captions are indented.

Wild species, Brazil:

Domestic breed, swimming;

Domestic breed, standing:

Another domestic form:

Another domestic form:

Still another domestic form:

A final domestic form:

Head portrait:

Click “read more” to see the ID, Avise’s Fun Duck Facts, and a range map.

Muscovy Duck(Cairina moschata)

John’s Duck Facts: The Mallard (see posts for the past two weeks) is one of two duck species to have been successfully domesticated by humans.   The other such species is the Muscovy Duck, which in its wild state is native to Central and South America (although a few wild or feral breeding populations also occur in southern Florida, Louisiana, and Texas).  The wild birds are mostly black and have a warty-looking (some would say ugly) bare red facial patch.   Domesticated races may be all white in plumage or any of a wide mixture of colors due to inter-breeding among domestic forms or hybridization with wild birds.  Domestic Muscovy Ducks have been introduced widely and are frequently encountered in urban parks as well as farm barnyards.  There is no sexual dimorphism.

Jerry’s fun duck fact:  Although mallard ducks are kosher, Muscovies are so weird that there’s been a continual debate amongst Jewish scholars about whether they are kosher, and the debate has raged for centuries.  It all hinges on rabbinical interpretation of a passage about “unclean” fowl from Leviticus, and of course Talmudic scholars love to argue about stuff like this. There is still no resolution of this pilpul. The turkey and prairie chicken are also subject to Jewish disputation.

Range map from the Cornell  bird site, which adds: “Nonmigratory. During droughts, Muscovy Ducks may move from inland wetlands to coastal lagoons and swamps.”  The color gives the year-round range.


  1. Posted October 4, 2020 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    I’ve seen them in the wild in the Amazon. There they are very shy and fly the moment they see people. I am sure the lcoal people hunt them assiduously.

    I think this may be the only Amazonian bird or mammal that is widely domesticated worldwide for food??

    Parrots of course are widely domesticated but rarely eaten (the reverse is true in their native habitat!!!)

  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    thats fun – I’ve heard of the Muscovy duck!

  3. Posted October 4, 2020 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    So many questions. How the heck did a South American duck get named after Moscow? What makes it any less “clean” than a mallard?

    • John avise
      Posted October 4, 2020 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      Wikipedia has an extended discussion of several alternative hypotheses for the origin of the word “Muscovy”. Bottom line: it’s not clear.

      • Posted October 4, 2020 at 11:27 am | Permalink

        Probably the same way the Peking duck got named after Peking. J

  4. Bruce Cochrane
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Muscovy ducks were everywhere in Tampa when I lived there. One time my mother came to visit and needed one new species to get her life list to 600. Muscovies had just been made legitimate for life list inclusion, so it was easy for me to help her meet her goal.

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