In areas of the country where Muscovy duck populations have moved in and taken over, homeowners are polarized over these odd-looking fowl. Some people love them for what they consider their friendly personalities, their usefulness in controlling insect populations and their unique markings and appearance. Other people, however, can’t stand them. They consider Muscovies a serious nuisance and just want them gone from their properties and neighborhoods.
It’s undeniable that feral Muscovy ducks have become a real problem for homeowners living in certain urban areas, including some neighborhoods of Houston and other areas of Texas, as well as in many regions in Florida. Muscovies leave their waste droppings everywhere, including all over homeowners’ porches, front walks and cars and even in their pools. These ducks have been known to destroy flower beds and other landscaping features as they forage for food. They can also be a hazard to drivers, many of whom have had an unpleasant and unexpected encounter with a Muscovy duck that has wandered out into the roadway. Some consider them highly aggressive.
It is also undeniable, however, that Muscovies can play an important role in keeping mosquitoes, flies and other insect pests at bay. Some people consider Muscovy duck meat to be a delicacy, while others enjoy keeping Muscovies as pets, claiming these ducks are intelligent and quirky.
So which side are you on—those who love Muscovy ducks (whether alive or for dinner), or those who believe these ducks are a scourge best eliminated? Let’s learn a little more about these animals to get the whole picture.
What Do Muscovy Ducks Eat?
Despite their significant population here in the United States, Muscovy ducks are not native to this country; instead, they were imported here from South and Central America over a century ago. They are heavy-bodied large ducks. Females reach about 10 pounds, and males can grow as large as 12 or 15 pounds. Ducks that are taken in as pets can grow even larger.
What does this species look like, exactly? Part of the reason these ducks are distinct is because of their blackish-green feathers with white patches, red, warty skin on their faces and long, curved necks that make them look a bit more like geese than ducks. Wild ducks are usually mostly black, while feral and juveniles are more likely to have brown or white feathers. If you look closely, you’ll see that the black feathers are an irridescent green. Like everything else about these animals, their appearances are polarizing: Some people find them to be quite interesting and attractive, while others find their looks awkward, if not downright ugly.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, there is no evidence that Muscovy ducks harm humans, either through their droppings or as a vector for disease. Muscovies can transmit diseases to other animal populations in the wild, however, and many homeowners find their droppings to be both unsanitary and unsightly. Also note that young children, elderly people and anyone who is immunocompromised should never handle newly hatched Muscovy ducklings, as the baby ducks can transmit salmonella.
Muscovy ducks are prolific breeders, so their populations can increase quickly when not actively checked. When an entire flock of these ducks takes over a neighborhood or a park, they naturally leave their droppings everywhere—on sidewalks and lawns, driveways and cars, pergolas and patios. In high summer, when there are water use restrictions in many parts of Texas, homeowners may not be able to hose off their property effectively when Muscovy duck droppings accumulate. This causes understandable frustration for many people who would prefer that these ducks lived elsewhere.
The impact of a flock of Muscovy ducks on a neighborhood isn’t all bad, however. A Muscovy duck’s natural diet is one of the main arguments for keeping these animals around. These ducks eat various types of vegetation, such as weeds and algae in ponds. Before you decide to be in the anti-duck camp, consider that these are one of the animals that eat mosquitoes. In addition, Muscovies also eat other types of insects—including flies, roaches, spiders, ants, slugs and more.
For this reason, Muscovies can be very helpful in keeping insect pest populations down. One study conducted in Canada actually found that Muscovy ducks caught 30 times more flies than several types of commercial fly traps!
It is important to note that many wildlife groups recommend that people do not feed Muscovy ducks, especially if you don’t want them around. The bread that many people tend to feed ducks has no nutritional value for these animals, but it can make them dependent on receiving regular handouts. If you are wondering what to feed ducks when you are out in parks and public spaces, consider alternatives, such as oats, seeds or rice.
So if you don’t want Muscovy ducks living near your home, don’t feed them—either directly, such as by tossing them bread and other scraps, or indirectly, by providing them with the insect population they need to survive. In other words, pest control is an important element of deterring Muscovy ducks from settling in your yard or neighborhood.
Can Muscovy Ducks Fly?
In the wild, Muscovy ducks typically make their homes in forested wetland areas and fly to forage for their insect-and-vegetation diets in the shallower swampy areas. In urban areas, Muscovies often seek out wet areas such as ponds located in neighborhood parks to make their homes. They enjoy roosting high up in trees, and these ducks can certainly fly well enough to reach their nests. Many homeowners and farmers who keep Muscovy ducks as pets or natural pest control provide these ducks with high-up roosts, since Muscovies love to perch on something elevated at night to sleep.
Are Muscovy Ducks Protected?
Muscovy ducks have been under federal protection since 2010. This protection applies to all Muscovy ducks, whether owned, feral or wild, but it doesn’t afford them as much security as one might expect. There are just three counties in all of Texas—Hidalgo, Starr and Zapata Counties, all of which are located along the southern tip of the state, across the border from Mexico—where Muscovy ducks are seen as native and are therefore fully federally protected.
Property owners and wildlife management agencies in the entire rest of the state and around the country have the right to limit the populations of wild or free-ranging Muscovies, since this species is seen as invasive—meaning, they displace other, native animal populations from their natural habitats.
Controlling Muscovy duck populations might involve administering contraception to the ducks, addling their eggs (treating them with certain substances or removing them from their nests so they won’t hatch) or even going so far as to euthanize the ducks. Addling and contraception are considered more humane population control methods than euthanization, even when the ducks are humanely euthanized.
It is illegal to treat Muscovy ducks cruelly, so harming them, their eggs or their nests in any way that does not comply with current regulations is a federal crime. It is also illegal to relocate these ducks, including releasing them into the wild; this is partly because Muscovy ducks have too much potential for interbreeding with other duck species or transmitting diseases to them.
The new regulations that went into place in 2010 also stated that individuals would no longer be allowed to keep these ducks as show animals or to produce eggs and meat. So, by law, these animals cannot be kept as pets.
How To Get Rid Of Muscovy Ducks
If you have unwelcome Muscovy ducks living in your neighborhood or even in your yard, there are legal steps you can take to eliminate them. First off, you can try using certain duck repellent sprays that are formulated to smell like Muscovy ducks’ natural predators. It’s important to note, though, that regular re-application will likely be necessary, especially if you live in an area with plenty of these types of ducks nearby. It’s also important to keep in mind that any sprays you use may have an impact on your plants and trees, so be sure to read labels and do your research before deciding on a product that you want to use.
Since ponds are also a draw for these ducks, homeowners who have water features in their yards might consider letting them go dry, at least until their Muscovy duck problems have been resolved.
The most effective way to discourage Muscovy ducks from taking up residence on your property or in surrounding areas is by eliminating their natural food supply—insects. This requires a targeted pest control plan, since Muscovy ducks enjoy dining on a wide variety of insects. If you can eliminate pests like roaches, flies and mosquitoes from your outdoor living spaces, Muscovy ducks won’t be as attracted to your yard, since they won’t be able to find enough insects to meet their dietary needs.
You can also discourage ducks from staying on your property by spraying them with a water hose or showing them they are not welcome on your property by allowing your dogs to chase them (but not catch them).
ABC Can Help With Your Wildlife Problems
Remember, if you have a Muscovy duck problem that proves to be too much to handle on your own—or any other pest problem, large or small—ABC Home & Commercial Services is just a phone call away. Our pest control specialists have experience in all types of pest control, including helping home and business owners manage Muscovy duck populations and the insects they feed on. We can tackle the problem from all angles, starting with eliminating these ducks’ preferred diet of insects, bugs, spiders and other creepy-crawlies from your home and yard, so you can enjoy your home and property in peace.