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).
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.  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.
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.
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 EnglandIn one suggestion, it has been claimed that the Company of Merchant Adventurers to New Lands traded these ducks to Europe occasionally after 1550; 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. 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).
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 bowdlerized 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 duckThe species was first scientifically described by Carl Linnaeus in his 1758 edition of Systema Naturae as Anas moschata, literally meaning "musk duck". His description only consist 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. 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. Ulisse Aldrovandi 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 Gesner's brief discussion, ultimately on the reports of Christopher Columbus's travels) also seems to have included another species, 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 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."
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. 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 entirely unrelated waterfowl Biziura lobata from Australia.
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, 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 form Cairo".
This non-migratory species normally inhabits forested swamps, lakes, streams and nearby grassland, and often roosts in trees at night. The Muscovy Duck's diet consists of plant material obtained by grazing or dabbling in shallow water, with some small vertebrates and insects. 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.
Mating pair, male on topThis species, like the Mallard, does not form stable pairs. They will mate in the water or on land, unusual for ducks, which normally mate on the water only. Domesticated Muscovy Ducks can breed up to three times each year.
The hen lays a clutch of 8-16 white eggs or more, 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 one 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 most anything that moves. Their mother instructs them at an early age how to feed.
As a feral bird
Feral Muscovy Duck hen or young drake at Lake Union, Seattle (USA)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. 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 Cambridgeshire, UK, where they are considered a pest and culled by the local council.
In the US, Muscovy Ducks, like other domestic animals, are considered private property. An owner may do with the birds as he or she pleases, so long as laws regarding animal cruelty are not violated. Similarly, if the ducks have no owner, no US state or federal law prohibits their capture. This can be a last resort to resolve a nuisance problem.
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. Contraception of Muscovy Ducks is another available method to help reduce the population of birds[verification needed].
As domesticated bird
Muscovy ducks had been domesticated by various Native American cultures in the New World when Columbus arrived. The first few were brought to Europe by the European explorers at least by the 1500s.
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, unlike the fatty meat of mallard-derived ducks, its leanness and tenderness being often compared to that of veal. Muscovy ducks are also less noisy, and sometimes marketed as a "quackless" duck; even though they are not completely silent, they do in fact not quack. The carcass of a Muscovy Duck is also much heavier than that of most other domestic ducks, which make it ideal for the dinner table.
Piebald drakeDomesticated Muscovy Ducks, like those pictured, often have plumage features differing from that of 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 moulard 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.
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.
Lavender henOscillococcinum 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.
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 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).
If you are just now getting into ducks I'd recomend the muscovy they are great ducklings andf GOOD moms.