Muscovy ducks are a non-mallard derived breed of domestic duck native to Mexico and south America. There is a small natural population of this species of duck living in southern Texas as well. They have been kept as pets and poultry since about the 1500s. The differ from other ducks genetically as well as in appearance. They have crinkles and knobs on their bills, especially on the males, are larger and have a longer body, and different vocalizations. Muscovies rarely make any noise besides a hiss and sometimes a few clicks.
Muscovies are popular pets because of their colorful plumage, quietness, and mostly gentle demeanor towards people. They also produce good-tasting meat and lay plenty of eggs for baking. However, in a couple areas of the country, these birds have taken over ponds, lakes and riverbanks, driving native waterfowl away. This is partially due to irresponsible owners letting their birds have free range of open areas and letting them escape. Muscovies are good fliers and can easily fly out of a person’s yard if not restricted. They also are successful breeders and their population can increase very fast if unchecked. These feral birds have become more aggressive towards people and other ducks due to overpopulation. This gives them a wrongful reputation of being mean at times.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to revise the new permit provisions regarding keeping Muscovy ducks as pets. Originally, enforcement of these new regulations were due to begin in March of 2010, but have since put on hold. The new regulations, originally, would prohibit anyone from acquiring or selling Muscovies as pets after March 31st. They would not be able to give or sell any of their ducks away except as meat or egg producers. Muscovy pet owners have embarked on a letter writing campaign to let them keep the ducks as pets.
The latest news on this regulation, which is still in the process of being written, is that Muscovies kept as pets prior to March 2010 can continued to be allowed to as pets as long as they were marked and restricted from escaping or breeding. Many of the revisions are similar to keeping wild mallards. Pet birds must be marked in one of several different ways such as pinioning (removing a piece of the wing so the bird can’t fly), tattooing a foot, or removing a toe, for example. Permits will also be required in many situations. No such marking or restrictions will be necessary for birds used for meat or egg production.
Revisions as to removing problem populations in the wild are still being reviewed.
For more information, you can read the actual proposal here.
You can join the debate on the Backyard Chickens website by clicking here.