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Why the introduced Muscovy Duck is a protected species, sort of

Muscovy in Raleigh, North Carolina, by e_monk (Creative Commons).
Muscovy in Raleigh, North Carolina, by e_monk (Creative Commons).

A final rule published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2010 brought the number of species protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to 1,007, an increase of 175. Among the birds added was Muscovy Duck, the handsome bird pictured above.

Jerry Jackson, professor of ecological sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University, wrote a fascinating species profile of the species for our August 2013 issue.

In it, he explained that the species has expanded its range without human assistance from Mexico to Zapata, Starr, and Hidalgo Counties in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. Consequently, it is now considered native.

MBTA protection, however, came with a big caveat. To control the spread of Muscovy Ducks outside the three Texas counties, the service also published a so-called control order that allows landowners and state, federal, and tribal agencies to remove or destroy Muscovys and their nests and eggs anywhere outside their natural range without a federal migratory bird permit.

The control order makes plain what the future may hold for Muscovy Ducks sold as Easter ducklings, abandoned at local ponds, or sustained by illicit feeding.


Where the Muscovy is native

Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela

Trinidad and Tobago

Chile, Puerto Rico

Source: BirdLife International, 2012.


A version of this article appeared in the August 2013 issue of BirdWatching magazine. 


Originally Published

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