Feral Muscovy Ducks
Ask the average Joe or Jane what they know about Muscovy Ducks and you’ll probably get these two answers: they’re white, and they come from Moscow. Wrong on both counts! Their Russophilic name notwithstanding, Muscovy Ducks are native to Mexico, Central, and South America though scattered feral populations have taken hold in warm regions with access to fresh water.
(image via: RSPB Community)
Muscovy Ducks can be feathered in a wide range of shades and patterns though the natural pigmentation of males in their wild state is black with white patches on their wings. Their faces are often bare except for rich red caruncles that are much more prominent in males, making them bare a casual resemblance to Turkey Vultures… or punk rockers. A prime example of the latter was captured photographically in eastern England’s Markeaton Park. Unlike Spike from the movie Gremlins, who he also shares a likeness, this is one critter that can and does get wet without deleterious repercussions.
The White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala) is a smallish waterfowl found from Spain and Morocco east to Russia north of Mongolia. Listed as Endangered on the IUCN’s Red List, White-headed Ducks have always been hunted but in the past decade or so their genetic pool has been compromised by interbreeding in Spain with the invasive introduced Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis).
(image via: BioLib.cz)
The most unusual and distinguishing feature of the White-headed Duck is not its white head (which isn’t all that white) but the powder blue bills of males. Those accustomed to seeing orange bills on their ducks either haven’t been to Spain or have been watching far too many Looney Tunes cartoons on TV.