Sunday, 4 January 2015

Muscovy Ducks on Bingley Canal

Surprise Muscovy Visitors Along the Canal

Female Muscovy Ducks
Female Muscovy Ducks
This photo journal features two charismatic Muscovy ducks. One could be forgiven for thinking one had been transported to Mexico yesterday when these two ducks were spotted on Bingley canal in West Yorkshire, England. They are Muscovy ducks, not native to England, but popular with poultry keepers. In this case the adventurous pair had escaped for an afternoon swim from the allotments which back onto the canal. If you are unfamiliar with allotments, these are small plots of land owned by local government councils in the UK and rented out for gardening and as smallholdings. When I pointed out the escapees to the owner he shrugged and said, "they'll be back when they're hungry!"

Female Muscovy Duck
Female Muscovy Duck

Female Muscovy Duck
Female Muscovy Duck
Muscovy Ducks, Cairina moschata, the Clown with Feathers

These large ducks are very popular both as pets and for food production. These are the only ducks not descendent from mallard ducks. Indeed, it is thought mallards and muscovies are themselves the anscestors of all domesticated ducks.
Like mallards, they come in a variety of colours. Most are white or white with dark back and tails. All of them have distinctive red or pink flashing from the knob on the beak and surrounding the pale blue eye like a mask. One of our visitor is pure white and he came right up to me, perhaps not surprising as muscovies are renowned beggers. The other has a white head and the most beautiful plumage with irredescent blues, greens and lavendar.
They are very popular with kids and are no trouble.

Female Muscovy Duck
Spreading her wings - Female Muscovy Duck
20 Muscovy Ducks Facts

Did you know?
  1. Wild muscovy ducks were all dark in colour.
  2. Muscovies are the only ducks NOT descended from mallard ducks.
  3. Muscovies are children- and people-friendly.
  4. They will beg for food.
  5. Muscovies have a sense of humour - dog bating is one of their favourite pass-times.
  6. In the wild they often roost in trees at night.
  7. Muscovies eat anything left lying around, good to keep down rodent.
  8. Unfortunately been known to eat young mice.
  9. Make great gardeners for weed control.
  10. Unfortunatly don't know the difference between your vegetables and weeds.
  11. Muscovies can produce up to 3 clutches of eggs every year.
  12. They lay 8-10 eggs. Known to desire to repopulate the world with muscovy ducklings.
  13. Muscovies have a large 'nail' on the end of their beak.
  14. Muscovies now come in assorted colours.
  15. Muscovies tend to be promiscuous and males don't know how to take no for an answer.
  16. They can become anaemic - you can tell when their red mask becomes paler.
  17. They will eat dog food if allowed. This is not encouraged as it makes for slightly hysterical dogs.
  18. They will respond to being talked to. They will wag their tail. Especially if it involves food.
  19. Muscovy ducks crossed with domestic ducks produce mulard ducks - 'mule ducks'.
  20. Mucovies are reknown for being 'head' of any escapee committee.

Female Muscovy Duck
Female Muscovy Duck
Keeping muscovies as pets

Muscovy ducks make great pets. Yes I know many people rear them for their meat but I'm a committed vegetarian so that is out.
These ducks are full of character and a joy to keep.
Their eggs are good, creamy and full of protein but they are not prolific layers so you can't depend on regular laying, think of them more as a bonus. They might lay around 100 over the whole year.
They will forage on grass quite happily but you do need to feed them a good chicken feed. Make sure they have plenty of fresh water to drink as well as a pond for bathing. They need to keep their feather in tip top condition and they can't do that without a pond. They don't need a huge pond.
If you want to breed them, you will find they lay about 10-15 eggs for each brood and if they are in captivity and protected from predators all of those will survive.
If you do want to breed them, think about keeping one male to 3-5 females but you will need to separate them into breeding clutches during the season - more than one drake in a group is likely to lead to bloodshed.
They do like to roost in trees - that's what they have those long claws for - but will take to a hutch if necessary. They like to be up a bit and well concealed. Don't be surprised though if they pick out their own nesting spots and ignore yours completely.
They are great brooding ducks looking about the clutch and the chicks devotedly.Several females might brood the clutch.
They are nice quiet ducks and are great for keeping down insects and pests. They actively hunt down flies - so are great pest controllers.
Female Muscovy Duck
Female Muscovy Duck

Female Muscovy Duck
Female Muscovy Duck

Female Muscovy Duck
Female Muscovy Duck

Information about Muscovy Ducks

 from a reader Doug Baja 

Both adult females. Black and white one shows dominant white head gene, probably one codominant white gene, and the sides show the recessive barred she's losing as an adult...she would have hatched yellow with a black tail. Pale female looks to have multiple dilution genes stuffed into her. Lilac = 2 blue genes (silver) plus chocolate is a good bet.
Wild muscovy ducks are all black with white wing patches after the 18 month molt. They are slimmer and lighter than the domestics which have been selected for meat production. They have less caruncling and more black pigment such that the remaining red bits tend to look like rosettes around the perimeter.
Read R. A. Donkin's book for some fascinating muscovy history.
Muscovy ducks are the only DOMESTIC ducks not descended from mallards...its important to distinguish wild from domestic from domestic feral...many people do not understand that a domestic form is not just a wild bird kept by has been selected for certain traits e.g. domestic muscovies have been selected for larger size (for meat) and less pigment (to better judge the carcass in the marketplace). Muscovy beak tip (bean) and claws (esp. inner) are MUCH bigger than even a big domestic mallard like a Rouen. I don't think they get anemic - the caruncles get paler during non-breeding season and also if a female has been on eggs a long time so perhaps a link to sun exposure. Domestic muscovies are not very well-linked to photoperiod and can lay eggs any time of year. Most females with a few years on them will lay more in the 12-18 eggs/nesting attempt and the average egg size will increase as they get older. They are regarded somewhat as pests in Florida as they do very well in artificial ponds/canals etc but this is only in close proximity to people. They quickly get eaten in the wild. It seems certain that Columbus actually brought back domesticated muscovies from Caribbean Indians on his first voyage (he called them geese but there is no good candidate except the muscovy). Whether or not they survived by 1555 or so they were recorded in France where they became a popular sort of special feast bird. Their multiple names show how confused people were as to where they came from. The genus name is a reference to Cairo, Egypt, "muscovy" could be a reference to Moscow or to the Muscovy Trading Company. The other New World bird the Turkey was called that because it was thought to come from Asia somewhere just like the Guinea Pig was thought to come from Africa when it comes from get this, in Brazil the Turkey is called a Peru! Short for Gallinho do Peru or Peruvian chicken since they thought it came from there. So you can order Peru in a restaurant in Brazil just like you can order Turkey in a restaurant in the USA!

Lastly but most importantly, muscovies rule mallards drool!

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