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Muscovy Ducks

Muscovy DuckPUBLIC MENACE OR UNFAIRLY MALIGNED?

Muscovy Ducks — a common sight throughout Southwest Florida neighborhoods. They have been blamed for spreading disease to humans and even duck lovers have complained about the problem of duck droppings on the lawns, drive-ways, patios, and even in their swimming pools (A problem that has now been complicated because water use restrictions prohibit homeowners from hosing off hard surfaces like patios, decks and driveways).

What are the facts about these ubiquitous water fowl? Muscovies are not native to the United States. They have, been here for over 100 years since being imported from South America where they have long been known as “good eating.” Larger than most domestic ducks, muscovies have substantially larger amounts of breast meat. In fact, in many parts of the world and even elsewhere in the United States, they are considered an epicurean delight. If you Google “Muscovy duck,” you would come back with over 80,000 responses—and a good portion of those would be recipes!

Muscovies are protected by Florida Statute 828.12 regarding animal cruelty. However, because these birds originated in Florida from domestic stock, they are not considered "wildlife." Therefore, they are not protected by state wildlife laws nor laws set forth by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Muscovy ducks have been introduced into urban and suburban areas in Florida where they often occur in high densities. Muscovies can be extremely prolific, and local populations, if uncontrolled, can increase dramatically in a short time. As a result, controversies frequently arise between residents who enjoy the birds and residents who consider them a nuisance. State law prohibits the relocation of such ducks into native wildlife areas as they may be carriers of diseases which can adversely affect native water-fowl.

No public health agency, including the United States Centers for Disease Control, has any evidence that Muscovy ducks or their droppings present any health threat to human beings. The sole exception is when small children, the elderly and those with immune system problems directly handle newly-hatched chicks, then exposure to salmonella can occur.

SO, WHAT’S THE ANSWER?

The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, among other groups, strongly recommends that people DO NOT feed the ducks. Their natural diet is comprised of vegetation and insects—both of which are abundant in our subtropical climate. Humans most often feed these animals bread and similar items. These have no nutritional value for the duck. Additionally, feeding by humans make the ducks reliant on such hand-outs, and too lazy to continue foraging for their natural dietary items.

Many pest control companies are certified to spray yard areas to repel the ducks. Basically, it is a sub-stance that smells like the ducks’ natural predators. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, or just want to keep the ducks out of your planting beds for instance, retail stores, catalogues and websites which cater to ‘outdoors’ enthusiasts sell these sprays as well. Just look for fox or mongoose urine. Be sure to check product labels to find out what effect, if any, these sprays will have on your vegetation.

Muscovies are year-round breeders and can lay as many as 24 eggs in a single clutch. A clutch of eggs will hatch in 35 days. Several groups, including the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, recommend that homeowners remove newly-laid eggs. There are any number of ways to accomplish this, based on your own sensibilities. When the nest is empty:

  • Remove the eggs and throw them in the garbage. Some groups recommend leaving one or two eggs behind because if the female doesn’t have any eggs to hatch, she will begin mating again to prepare for a new clutch. Drawbacks include the smell in your garbage cart if one of the eggs should break, and possibly hatching ducklings in the cart if you’re not sure of the age of the clutch.
  • You can break the eggs within the nest. Drawbacks: Again, not knowing the age of the clutch, you may not like what then becomes visible.
  • Some advocates recommend vigorously shaking each of the eggs and then returning them to the nest as it will take several days for the duck to realize they are no longer viable. When the female abandons the nest, it is recommended that you remove and dispose of the eggs, or you will have eggs rotting in the Florida sun and they will begin to smell after a couple of weeks.
  • In order to avoid any of the potential drawbacks, some groups recommend that you remove the eggs, place them securely in a plastic bag and put them in your freezer until the next regularly-scheduled garbage pick-up.

Let’s Work Together!

Please note that wildlife experts recommend that, although feeding the Muscovy ducks may be an enjoyable pastime, they are not a domestic animal and should be left to forage for their food naturally.

- Information courtesy of: Cooper City, Florida, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

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  This page was updated on 2009-07-20 14:19:09.53.

 

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