What About The Local Muscovy Duck?
The Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata) occurs naturally only in southern Texas. It has been introduced in other locations, where it is considered an invasive species that sometimes creates problems through competition with native species, damage to property, and transmission of disease.
Federal Regulations Regarding The Muscovy Duck
The Federal Fish and Wildlife Service amends the regulations to prohibit sale, transfer, or propagation of Muscovy ducks for hunting and any other purpose other than food production, and to allow their removal in locations in which the species does not occur naturally in the contiguous United States, Alaska, and Hawaii, and in U.S. territories and possessions.
This requires revision of regulations governing permit exceptions for captive bred migratory waterfowl other than mallard ducks, and waterfowl sale and disposal permits, and the addition of an order to allow control of Muscovy ducks, their nests, and eggs. This agency has also rewritten the affected regulations to make them easier to understand. DATES: This rule will be effective on March 31, 2010.
Some Migration Facts About The Muscovy Duck
The Muscovy is a large duck native to South America, Central America, and Mexico. Due to a recent northward expansion of the range of the species, there is a small natural population in three counties in southern Texas in which natural breeding of wild birds has been confirmed. For that reason, this species is included in the final rule published today to revise the list of migratory birds found at 50 CFR 10.13.
The Muscovy duck normally inhabits forested swamps and mangrove ponds, lakes and streams, and freshwater ponds near wooded areas. The species often roosts in trees at night. The hen usually lays her eggs in a tree hole or hollow. However, Muscovy ducks will occasionally nest in abandoned nests of large birds such as ospreys or eagles, between palm tree fronds, and in wooden boxes or other man-made, elevated cavities. The species does not form stable pairs.
Habitats And Flocks
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. Feral populations, particularly in Florida, are said to present problems. Feral Muscovy ducks are wary and associate little with other species. Muscovy ducks feed on the roots, stems, leaves, and seeds of aquatic and terrestrial plants, including agricultural crops. They also eat small fishes, reptiles, crustaceans, insects, millipedes, and termites.
Muscovy ducks live alone or in groups of 4 to 12, rarely in large flocks. They are mainly active in the morning and afternoon, feeding on the shores of brackish waters, or in the flood
savannah and underbrush. They often sleep at night in permanent roosts in trees along the river bank. Heavy and low-flying, they are silent and timid. Muscovy ducks swim much less than other ducks, and the males fly poorly. We received comments from States and individuals expressing concern over control of Muscovy ducks in response to the 2006 proposal to add the species to the list of those protected under the MBTA (50 CFR 10.13).
In general, States expressed concern over feral and free-ranging populations of Muscovy ducks present as the result of human activity. For example, one State was concerned that protecting the species under the MBTA
‘‘would severely impede our efforts to manage the feral and free-ranging populations of domestic Muscovy ducks.’’
Individuals expressed concern over property damage and aggressiveness demonstrated by the ducks. The Muscovy duck is an introduced species in many locations in the United States. We believe it is prudent to prohibit activities that would allow release of Muscovy ducks in areas in which they are not native and may compete with native species.
How Do We Control The Species?
We expect control of Muscovy ducks to be undertaken primarily through the use of walk-in baited traps and through shooting. The use of baited traps will greatly limit the potential impacts to other species, especially Passerines, which would be unlikely to enter properly placed traps. Shooting undertaken by State agency or U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services personnel would be very unlikely to harm other species.
We propose to revise 50 CFR 21.14 to prohibit sale and, in most cases, possession, of Muscovy ducks; to revise § 21.25 to prohibit sale or transfer of captive-bred Muscovy ducks for
hunting; and to add § 21.54 to allow removal of introduced Muscovy ducks from any location in the contiguous United States outside Hidalgo, Starr, and Zapata Counties in Texas, and in Alaska, Hawaii, and U.S. territories and possessions. This removal is in keeping with the Service’s other actions to reduce the spread of introduced species that compete with native species or harm habitats that they use. It also is in keeping with the intent of the Migratory Bird Treaty Reform Act of 2004 (16 U.S.C. 703 (b)), which excluded nonnative
species from MBTA protection. Muscovy ducks are produced in the millions in the United States generally for meat production * * *. No permits are needed to possess domesticated barnyard fowl.
A Market For The Muscovy Duck
This species is bought and sold in the millions being the most commonly held species of waterfowl in the United States.
‘‘I believe that problems associated with large feral populations of Muscovy ducks are from domesticated varieties raised in captivity that have wandered, or allowed to free range, and not from ‘wild’ type Muscovite imported from Latin America. ‘‘
The proposed regulation’s goal of preventing additional human introduction of Muscovy ducks has great merit. It is far better to prevent populations from establishing than to subject more ducks to control later.
However, the proposed regulation limits acquisition, possession, and propagation for some owners but not for others. Accidental releases from food production are not addressed and could continue to allow Muscovy populations to become established. No clear reason is evident for targeting only Muscovy’s not in food production to prevent additional introductions. Why are Muscovy in food production excepted when this source of accidental releases may be significant?
‘‘The rule should be focused on controlling populations, both feral and domestic, instead of destroying established populations. By controlling populations, the Fish and
Wildlife Service can largely achieve the same goals without many of the potential harmful side effects.’’
If you find this all too confusing, just call Nuisance Wildlife Removal for your nuisance duck problems, and we’ll know what to do.
CALL 866-263-WILD (9453)