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Cairina moschata

Cairina moschata (*)

Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Classis: Aves
Subclassis: Carinatae
Infraclassis: Neornithes
Parvclassis: Neognathae
Ordo: Anseriformes
Familia: Anatidae
Subfamilia: Anatinae
Genus: Cairina
Species: Cairina moschata
Subspecies: C. m. momelanotus - C. m. moschata -


Cairina moschata (Linnaeus, 1758)


* Anas moschata (Linnaeus, 1758)


* Syst.Nat.ed.10 p.124

Vernacular names
Česky: Pižmovka velká
Deutsch: Moschusente
English: Muscovy Duck
Español: Pato Criollo
Français: Canard musqué, Canard muet, Canard de Barbarie (domestiqué)
Magyar: Pézsmaréce
Bahasa Indonesia: Mentok (peliharaan)
Italiano: Anatra muschiata
日本語: ノバリケン
Nederlands: Muskuseend
‪Norsk (bokmål)‬: Moskusand
Polski: Piżmówka amerykańska
Português: Pato
Русский: Мускусная утка
Suomi: Myskisorsa
Українська: Мускусна качка
中文: 疣鼻棲鴨

The Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata) is a large duck which is native to Mexico and Central and South America. A small wild population reaches into the United States in the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. There also are feral breeding populations in North America in and around public parks in nearly every state of the USA and in the Canadian provinces; feral populations also exist in Europe. Although the Muscovy Duck is a tropical bird, it adapts to icy and snowy conditions down to –12°C (10°F) and below without ill effects.[2][3] In general, "Barbary Duck" is the usual term for C. moschata in a culinary context.


All Muscovy Ducks have long claws on their feet and a wide flat tail. The drake (male) is about 86 cm long and weighs 4.6-6.8 kg (10-15 lb), while the hen (female) is much smaller, at 64 cm in length and 2.7-3.6 kg (6-8 lb) in weight; domesticated males often weigh up to 8 kg (17 lb), and domesticated females up to 5 kg (10 lb). One male of an Australian breed weighed about 10 kg (20 pounds).[4]

The wild Muscovy Duck is blackish, with large white wing patches. Domesticated birds may look similar; most are dark brown or black mixed with white, particularly on the head.[5] Other colors such as lavender or all-white are also seen. Both sexes have a nude black-and-red or all-red face; the drake also has pronounced caruncles at the base of the bill and a low erectile crest of feathers.[3]

C. moschata ducklings are mostly yellow with buff-brown markings on the tail and wings. Some domesticated ducklings have a dark head and blue eyes, others a light brown crown and dark markings on their nape. They are agile and speedy precocial birds.

The drake has a low breathy call, and the hen a quiet trilling coo.

The karyotype of the Muscovy Duck is 2n=80, consisting of three pairs of macrochromosomes, 36 pairs of microchromosomes, and a pair of sex chromosomes. The two largest macrochromosome pairs are submetacentric, while all other chromosomes are acrocentric or (for the smallest microchromosomes) probably telocentric. The submetacentric chromosomes and the Z (female) chromosome show rather little constitutive heterochromatin (C bands), while the W chromosomes are at least two-thirds heterochromatin.[6]

Male Muscovy Ducks have spiralled penises which can become erect to 20 cm in one third of a second. Females have cloacas that spiral in the opposite direction to try and limit forced copulation by males.[7]

Domestic varieties

* Black
* Blue
* Chocolate
* Pied (white with any color)
* White
* Lavender
* Bronze
* Barred
* Ripple
* and many more pastel colors but these are very rare.

Etymology, taxonomy and systematics

The term "Muscovy" means "from the Moscow region", but these ducks are neither native there nor were they introduced there before they became known in Western Europe. It is not quite clear how the term came about; it very likely originated between 1550 and 1600, but did not become widespread until somewhat later.
The Muscovy Company traded Russian produce to England

In one suggestion, it has been claimed that the Company of Merchant Adventurers to New Lands traded these ducks to Europe occasionally after 1550;[8] this chartered company became eventually known as the Muscovy Company or "Muscovite Company" so the ducks might thus have come to be called "Muscovite Ducks" or "Muscovy Ducks" in keeping with the common practice of attaching the importer's name to the products they sold.[8] But while the Muscovite Company initiated vigorous trade with Russia, they hardly, if at all, traded produce from the Americas; thus they are unlikely to have traded C. moschata to a significant extent.

Alternatively – just as in the "turkey" bird (which is also from America), or the "guineafowl" (which are not limited to Guinea) – "Muscovy" might be simply a generic term for a hard-to-reach and exotic place, in reference to the singular appearance of these birds. This is evidenced by other names suggesting the species came from lands where it is not actually native, but from where much "outlandish" produce was imported at that time (see below). A more recent parallel is the "Persian" cat, which resembles cats from Greater Khorasan and Ankara, but was actually bred in England.[9]

Yet another view – not incompatible with either of those discussed above – connects the species with the Muisca, a Native American nation in today's Colombia. The duck is native to these lands too, and it is likely that it was kept by the Muisca as a domestic animal to some extent. It is conceivable that a term like "Muisca duck", hard to comprehend for the average European of those times, would be corrupted into something more familiar. But in fact, the true origin of the common name "Muscovy Duck" lies in neither of the above explanation – though any or all of them played together to arrive at it.
The Muscovy drake's distinctive facial characteristics are unlike those of any other duck

The species was first scientifically described by Carl Linnaeus in his 1758 edition of Systema Naturae as Anas moschata,[10] literally meaning "musk duck". His description only consists of a curt but entirely unequivocal [Anas] facie nuda papillosa ("A duck with a naked and carunculated face"), and his primary reference is his earlier work Fauna Svecica.[11] But Linnaeus refers also to older sources, and therein much information on the origin of the common name is found.

Conrad Gessner is given by Linnaeus as a source, but the Historiae animalium mentions the Muscovy Duck only in passing.[12] Ulisse Aldrovandi[13] discusses the species in detail, referring to the wild birds and its domestic breeds variously as anas cairina, anas indica or anas libyca – "Duck from Cairo", "Indian Duck" (in reference to the West Indies) or "Libyan Duck". But his anas indica (based, like Gessner's brief discussion, ultimately on the reports of Christopher Columbus's travels) also seems to have included another species,[14] perhaps a whistling-duck (Dendrocygna). Already however the species is tied to some more or less nondescript "exotic" locality – "Libya" could still refer to any place in Northern Africa at that time – where it did not natively occur. Francis Willughby[15] discusses "The Muscovy Duck" as anas moschata and expresses his belief that Aldrovandi's and Gessner's anas cairina, anas indica and anas libyca (which he calls "The Guiny Duck", adding another mistaken place of origin to the list) refer to the very same species. Finally, John Ray clears up much of the misunderstanding by providing a contemporary explanation for the bird's etymology:

"In English, it is called The Muscovy-Duck, though this is not transferred from Muscovia [the New Latin name of Muscovy], but from the rather strong musk odour it exudes."[16]

Linnaeus came to witness the birds' "gamey" aroma first-hand, as he attests in the Fauna Svecica and again in the travelogue of this 1746 Västergötland excursion.[17] Similarly, the Russian name of this species, muskusnaya utka (Мускусная утка), means "musk duck" – without any reference to Moscow – as do the Bokmål moskusand, Dutch muskuseend, Finnish myskisorsa, French canard musqué, German Moschusente, Italian anatra muschiata, Spanish pato almizclado and Swedish myskand. In English however, Musk Duck refers to the Australian species Biziura lobata.

In some regions the name Barbary Duck is used for domesticated and "Muscovy Duck" for wild birds; in other places "Barbary Duck" refers specifically to the dressed carcass, while "Muscovy Duck" applies to living C. moschata, regardless of whether they are wild or domesticated. In general, "Barbary Duck" is the usual term for C. moschata in a culinary context.

This species was formerly placed into the paraphyletic "perching duck" assemblage, but subsequently moved to the dabbling duck subfamily (Anatinae). Analysis of the mtDNA sequences of the cytochrome b and NADH dehydrogenase subunit 2 genes,[18] however, indicates that it might be closer to the genus Aix and better placed in the shelduck subfamily Tadorninae. In addition, the other species of Cairina, the rare White-winged Wood Duck (C. scutulata), seems to belong into a distinct genus. The generic name Cairina, meanwhile, traces its origin to Aldrovandi, and ultimately to the mistaken belief that the birds came from Egypt: translated, the current scientific name of the Muscovy Duck means "the musky one from Cairo".


This non-migratory species normally inhabits forested swamps, lakes, streams and nearby grassland and farm crops,[19] and often roosts in trees at night. The Muscovy Duck's diet consists of plant material obtained by grazing or dabbling in shallow water, and small fish, amphibians, reptiles, crustaceans, insects, and millipedes. [1] This is a somewhat aggressive duck; males often fight over food, territory or mates. The females fight with each other less often. Some adults will peck at the ducklings if they are eating at the same food source.

The Muscovy Duck has benefited from nest boxes in Mexico, but is somewhat uncommon in much of the east of its range due to excessive hunting. It is not considered a globally threatened species by the IUCN however, as it is widely distributed.[20]


This species, like the Mallard, does not form stable pairs. They will mate on land or in water (note the submerged female in the image left). Domesticated Muscovy Ducks can breed up to three times each year.

The hen lays a clutch of 8-16 white eggs, usually in a tree hole or hollow, which are incubated for 35 days. The sitting hen will leave the nest once a day from 20 minutes to one and a half hours, and will then defecate, drink water, eat and sometimes bathe. Once the eggs begin to hatch it may take 24 hours for all the chicks to break through their shells. When feral chicks are born they usually stay with their mother for about 10–12 weeks. Their bodies cannot produce all the heat they need, especially in temperate regions, so they will stay close to the mother especially at night.

Often, the drake will stay in close contact with the brood for several weeks. The male will walk with the young during their normal travels in search for food, providing protection. Anecdotal evidence from East Anglia, UK suggests that, in response to different environmental conditions, other adults assist in protecting chicks and providing warmth at night. It has been suggested that this is in response to local efforts to cull the eggs, which has led to an atypical distribution of males and females as well as young and mature birds.

For the first few weeks of their lives, Muscovy duckling feed on grains, corn, grass, insects, and almost anything that moves. Their mother instructs them at an early age how to feed.

As a feral bird

Feral Muscovy Ducks can breed near urban and suburban lakes and on farms, nesting in tree cavities or on the ground, under shrubs in yards, on condominium balconies, or under roof overhangs. Some feral populations, such as that in Florida, have a reputation of becoming nuisance pests on occasion.[21] At night they often sleep at water, if there is a water source available, to flee quickly from predators if awoken. A small population of Muscovy Ducks can also be found in Ely, Cambridgeshire, UK, where they are considered a pest and culled by the local council.

In the US, Muscovy Ducks are considered an invasive species. An owner may raise them for food production only (not for hunting). Similarly, if the ducks have no owner, 50CFR Part 21 allows the removal or destruction of the Muscovy ducks, their eggs and nests anywhere in the United States outside of Hidalgo, Starr, and Zapata counties in Texas where they are considered indigenous.

Legal methods to restrict breeding include not feeding these ducks, deterring them with noise or by chasing, and finding nests and vigorously shaking the eggs to render them non-viable. Returning the eggs to the nest will avoid re-laying as the female would if the clutch were removed.

Recent legislation in the USA prohibits trading of Muscovy Ducks and plans for eradication are in order to solve nuisance problems.[22]

As a domesticated bird

Muscovy Ducks had been domesticated by various Native American cultures in the Americas when Columbus arrived. The first few were brought to Europe by the European explorers at least by the 16th century.

The Muscovy Duck has been domesticated for centuries, and is widely traded as "Barbary duck". Muscovy breeds are popular because they have stronger-tasting meat – sometimes compared to roasted beef – than the usual domestic ducks which are descendants of the Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos). The meat is lean when compared to the fatty meat of mallard-derived ducks, its leanness and tenderness being often compared to veal. Muscovy ducks are also less noisy, and sometimes marketed as a "quackless" duck; even though they are not completely silent, they don't actually quack (except in cases of extreme stress). The carcass of a Muscovy Duck is also much heavier than most other domestic ducks, which makes it ideal for the dinner table.
Piebald drake

Domesticated Muscovy Ducks, like those pictured, often have plumage features differing from other wild birds. White breeds are preferred for meat production, as darker ones can have much melanin in the skin, which some people find unappealing.

The Muscovy Duck can be crossed with mallards in captivity to produce hybrids, known as mulard duck ("mule duck") because they are sterile. Muscovy drakes are commercially crossed with mallard-derived hens either naturally or by artificial insemination. The 40-60% of eggs that are fertile result in birds raised only for their meat or for production of foie gras: they grow fast like mallard-derived breeds but to a large size like Muscovy Ducks. Conversely, though crossing Mallard drakes with Muscovy hens is possible, the offspring are neither desirable for meat nor for egg production.[23]

In addition, Muscovy Ducks are reportedly cross-bred in Israel with Mallards to produce kosher duck products. The kashrut status of the Muscovy Duck has been a matter of rabbinic discussion for over 150 years.[24]
Lavender hen

Oscillococcinum is a homeopathic preparation made from Muscovy Duck liver and heart manufactured by the French company Boiron; similar products are also available from other manufacturers. Typically diluted with lactose and sucrose to 1:10400 (far more than one in one googol), they are supposed to relieve influenza-like symptoms, but its effectiveness has not been confirmed.[25]

A study examining birds in northwestern Colombia for blood parasites found the Muscovy Duck to be more frequently infected with Haemoproteus and malaria (Plasmodium) parasites than chickens, domestic pigeons and domestic turkeys,[26] and in fact almost all wild bird species studied also. It was noted than in other parts of the world, chickens were more susceptible to such infections than in the study area, but it may well be that Muscovy Ducks are generally more often infected with such parasites (which might not cause pronounced disease though, and are harmless to humans).[27]
[edit] Kosher status

As noted above, the Kosher status of the Muscovy duck has been a matter of dispute among deciders of Jewish Law (poskim) in previous generations. Although some consider the Muscovy duck to be non-kosher,[28][29] others continue to disagree.

In 2008, a "Mesora Dinner" was held to reaffirm the kosher status of various species, and Muscovy duck was on the menu. In discussing the halachic issues surrounding the species' kosher status, it was noted that the Muscovy duck was "highly controversial, due to its ban in America by the acerbic Rabbi Bernard Illowy in the mid 1800’s. As such, it is still not recognized as kosher in the [United] States today, but in Israel, no such ban ever existed."[2]


1. ^ BirdLife International (2009) Cairina moschata In: IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.2. Retrieved on 2010-02-15.
2. ^ Holderread (2001): p.17
3. ^ a b
4. ^
5. ^ Cisneros-Heredia (2006)
6. ^ Wójcik & Smalec (2008)
7. ^ Sample, Ian (23 December 2009). "Video reveals twists and turns of genital warfare in ducks". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 December 2009.
8. ^ a b Holderread (2001): pp.73-74
9. ^ Lipinski et al. (2008)
10. ^ Linnaeus (1758)
11. ^ Linnaeus (1746)
12. ^ Gessner (1555): p.118; not p.122 as per Linnaeus (1741, 1758): see Aldrovandi (1637): p.192 and Willughby (1676): p.295.
13. ^ Aldrovandi (1637): pp.192-201
14. ^ Aldrovandi (1637): Anas indica alia, pp.192 & 194
15. ^ Willughby (1676): pp.294-295
16. ^ Ray (1713): p.150. Latin: Anglicē, the Muscovy-Duck dicitur, non quōd ē Muscovia huc translata esset, sed quōd satis validum moschi odorem spiret.
17. ^ Linnaeus (1746, 1747)
18. ^ Johnson & Sorenson (1999)
19. ^ Accordi & Barcellos (2006)
20. ^ BLI (2008)
21. ^ read ″Florida's Introduced Birds: Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata)"
22. ^
23. ^ Holderread (2001): p.97, Zivotofsky & Amar (2003)
24. ^ Zivotofsky & Amar (2003)
25. ^ van der Wouden et al. (2005), Vickers & Smith (2006)
26. ^ In the single domestic guineafowl studied, no blood parasites were found either; the sample size precludes a direct comparison however.
27. ^ Londono et al. (2007)
28. ^ "Many authorities argue that not all species of duck should be accepted as kosher because certain species have no accepted tradition (M'sorah). Many decline to approve the use of a species known as the Muscovy duck and its hybrid, known as mulard duck."Blech, Zushe Yosef (2009). Kosher Food Production. John Wiley and Sons. pp. 138fn. ISBN 9780813820934.
29. ^ "In a two-page Kol Koreh proclamation, published in "Der Yid" of January 22, 2010, the Muscovy is carefully and detailedly analyzed and found to be not kosher, calling it a tumah, contaminated, bird. The Kol Koreh carries the signatures of Rabbi Shlomo Zvi Stern, DebricenerRav; Rabbi Yitzchok Stein, Foltechaner Dayan; Rabbi Yitzchak Eliezer Yakub, Rav of Beis Medrash Tevuos Shor and author of Siach Yitzchok; Rabbi Yaakov Zeida, Dayan of Vishnitz; and Rabbi Yechezkel Roth, Karlsburger Rav and author of Emek HaTeshuvah." Tannenbaum, Rabbi Gershon (2010-01-27). "My Machberes: Muscovy Duck 2010". The Jewish Press. Retrieved 17 May 2010.


* Accordi, Iury Almeida & Barcellos, André (2006): Composição da avifauna em oito áreas úmidas da Bacia Hidrográfica do Lago Guaíba, Rio Grande do Sul [Bird composition and conservation in eight wetlands of the hidrographic basin of Guaíba lake, State of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil]. Revista Brasileira de Ornitologia 14(2): 101-115 [Portuguese with English abstract]. PDf fulltext
* Aldrovandi, Ulisse (Ulyssis Aldrovandus) (1637): Ornithologia (2nd ed., vol. 3: Tomus tertius ac postremus) [in Latin]. Nicolò Tebaldini, Bologna ("Bononia"). Digitized version
* BirdLife International (BLI) (2008). Cairina moschata. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 18 November 2008.
* Cisneros-Heredia, Diego F. (2006): Información sobre la distribución de algunas especies de aves de Ecuador. ["Information on the distribution of some species of birds of Ecuador"]. Boletín de la Sociedad Antioqueña de Ornitología 16(1): 7-16. [Spanish with English abstract] PDF fulltext
* Donkin, R.A. (1989): Muscovy duck, Cairina moschata domestica: Origins, Dispersal, and Associated Aspects of the Geography of Domestication. A.A. Balkema Publishers, B.R. Rotterdam.
* Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) (1999) Nuisance Muscovy Ducks. Retrieved 2008-NOV-18.
* Gessner, Conrad (1555): Historiae animalium (vol. 3) [in Latin]. Christoph Froschauer, Zürich ("Tigurium"). Digitized version
* Hilty, Steven L. (2003): Birds of Venezuela. Christopher Helm, London. ISBN 0-7136-6418-5
* Holderread, David (2001): Storey's Guide to Raising Ducks. Storey Publishing, North Adams, MA. ISBN 1-58017-258-X
* Johnson, Kevin P. & Sorenson, Michael D. (1999): Phylogeny and biogeography of dabbling ducks (genus Anas): a comparison of molecular and morphological evidence. Auk 116(3): 792–805. DjVu fulltext PDF fulltext
* Linnaeus, Carl (1746): 98. Anas facie nuda papillosa. In: Fauna Svecica Sistens Animalia Sveciæ Regni, etc. (1st ed.): 35 [in Latin]. Conrad & Georg Jacob Wishoff, Leiden ("Lugdunum Batavorum"). Digitized version
* Linnaeus, Carl (1747): Anas facie nuda papillosa. In: Wästgöta-Resa, etc.: 134 [in Swedish]. Lars Salvius, Stockholm ("Holmius"). Digitized version
* Linnaeus, Carl (1758): 61.13. Anas moschata. In: Systema naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis (10th ed., vol. 1): 124 [in Latin]. Lars Salvius, Stockholm ("Holmius"). Digitized version
* Lipinski, Monika J.; Frönicke, Lutz; Baysac, Kathleen C.; Billings, Nicholas C.; Leutenegger, Christian M.; Levy, Alon M.; Longeri, Maria; Niini, Tirri; Ozpinar, Haydar; Slater, Margaret R.; Pedersen, Niels C. & Lyons, Leslie A. (2008): The Ascent of Cat Breeds: Genetic Evaluations of Breeds and Worldwide Random Bred Populations Genomics 91(1): 12–21.
* Londono, Aurora; Pulgarin-R., Paulo C. & Blair, Silva (2007): Blood Parasites in Birds From the Lowlands of Northern Colombia. Caribb. J. Sci. 43(1): 87-93. PDF fulltext
* Maddox, John (1988): When to believe the unbelievable. Nature 333(6176): 787. doi:10.1038/333787a0
* Ray, John (Joannis Raii) (1713): Synopsis methodica avium & piscium: opus posthumum, etc. (vol. 1) [in Latin]. William Innys, London. Digitized version
* Shang, Aijing; Huwiler-Müntener, Karin; Nartey, Linda; Jüni, Peter; Dörig, Stephan; Sterne, Jonathan A.C.; Pewsner, Daniel & Egger, Matthias (2005): Are the clinical effects of homoeopathy placebo effects? Comparative study of placebo-controlled trials of homoeopathy and allopathy. Lancet 366(9487): 726–732. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(05)67177-2 PDF fulltext
* Stiles, F. Gary & Skutch, Alexander Frank (1989): A guide to the birds of Costa Rica. Comistock, Ithaca. ISBN 0-8014-9600-4
* van der Wouden, J.C.; Bueving, H.J. & Poole, P. (2005): Preventing influenza: an overview of systematic reviews. Respiratory Medicine 99(11): 1341-1349. PMID 16112852 doi:10.1016/j.rmed.2005.07.001 (HTML abstract)
* Vickers, Andrew J. & Smith, Claire (2006): Homoeopathic Oscillococcinum for preventing and treating influenza and influenza-like syndromes. Cochrane Database Syst. Rev. 3: CD001957. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001957.pub3 PDF fulltext
* Willughby, Francis (1676): Ornithologiae libri tres [in Latin]. John Martyn, London. Digitized version
* Wójcik, Ewa & Smalec, Elżbieta (2008): Description of the Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata) Karyotype. Folia Biologica (Kraków) 56(3-4): 243-248. doi:10.3409/fb.56_3-4.243-248 PDF fulltext
* Zivotofsky, Rabbi Ari Z. & Amar, Zohar (2003): The Halachic Tale of Three American Birds: Turkey, Prairie Chicken, and Muscovy Duck. Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society 6: 81-104. HTML fulltext

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