Why Do Muscovy Ducks Have Red Faces?
If you have ever lived around muscovy ducks, it’s natural to question why perfectly good ducks have red warts on their face. Let’s try to see what these red-colored warts are meant for.
Muscovy ducks are a rather unique breed of duck, different from other breeds in several ways.
Many argue that Muscovies are closer to geese than ducks.
Among their several distinguishing characteristics, their red faces deserve special mention.
If you’re wondering why they have these fleshy red parts on their face, this page will share all the details.
What Is the Red Stuff on Muscovy Ducks?
The thick and red layer of fleshy and warty growth on the face of Muscovy ducks is known as a caruncle.
While this feature is very common in species of birds like roosters and turkeys, it’s usually not found in ducks.
Muscovies, however, aren’t like other breeds of ducks.
They have prominent caruncles of bright red color, often with a pinkish tinge or black markings.
Caruncles are nothing but fleshy outgrowths, usually serving ornamental purposes.
Also known as a face mask, the red growth helps keep the feathers clean when Muscovies dabble in mud.
It’s especially large and well-developed in males. Like the other bird species with caruncles, male Muscovy ducks use it to attract mates.
The color of the face mask is particularly important in this regard.
The higher the duck’s testosterone levels, the brighter the shade of the caruncle will be.
Besides, a large and bright red face mask also indicates good gene quality.
These Muscovies are better fed, more disease-resistant, and able to deal with predators more effectively.
The red masks have an interesting feature – oil glands.
Normally, oil crusts over the gland and shuts it off, preventing the release. When the duck takes a bath, the water washes away the oil and gets the oil flowing.
The duck then brushes its face against the feathers while drying and preening them, thus applying oil all over them.
This helps keep the feathers dry even when the bird is in water.
Do All Muscovy Ducks Have Red Faces?
All Muscovy ducks have red faces, although it’s much more prominent in the males.
For comparison, female Muscovy ducks have caruncles surrounding their eyes and connecting to their beak in a thin strip.
The males have large red masks covering the majority of their faces.
The exact size of the mask or the portion of the face it covers may vary from one duck to another.
However, ultimately it’s a characteristic you’ll find in every Muscovy duck.
The only exception to the rule are babies – they don’t grow the caruncles until they reach about 15-20 weeks.
The red faces aren’t found in other mallard-derived breeds.
But Muscovies aren’t bred from mallard stock – they are their own species.
When Do Muscovy Duck Faces Turn Red?
The development of the red masks is a regular growth process in Muscovy ducks.
As they grow older, the mask becomes more defined with prominent markings and a brighter shade.
The caruncle develops slowly over the years.
Apart from the natural growth, the red outgrowths also develop as a result of skin irritation, especially when fighting with other ducks.
The males tend to get into fights more often over pecking order and mates, which explains why their caruncles are often so large and unusually prominent.
Female Muscovies often develop the red caruncle on the back of their heads, too as a result of being grabbed by the males during mating.
Can You Prevent Muscovy Ducks From Having Red Faces?
You cannot prevent the development of red faces in Muscovy ducks entirely.
However, there’s no reason to do so in the first place.
The red face is natural for them and doesn’t cause any harm.
Without it, the males may also have trouble finding a mate.
Still, if the appearance of the caruncle bothers you, you can limit its development to some extent by making sure your ducks don’t fight.
As I explained, the skin irritation resulting from ducks fighting each other hastens the growth process by stimulating caruncle development.
You will not be able to stop the natural caruncle growth, and your ducks will gain more prominent face masks with time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do all Muscovy ducks have red faces?
This breed of duck comes in a variety of colors and patterns, including white, gray, tan, and blue.
The only common feature between them is the distinctive red warts on their faces.
Except for the baby chicks, every one of them has these red caruncles.
Most Muscovy ducks in the wild are born with plain brown feathers and black heads, but as they grow older, they acquire the characteristic red face.
Why is Muscovy not a duck?
Muscovys have web-like toes, like geese, which aren’t well suited for efficient underwater movement.
In addition to its unusual feet structure, this species has completely different mating behaviors than ducks and prefers to roost in trees.
Other ducks usually spend the night in or near water.
Of course, red warts on their faces also make them stand out from other ducks.
All these differences make people feel that while the Muscovy looks like a duck at first glance, they are actually geese.
Why do Muscovy ducks have red stuff on their face?
This is because this color stands out against the more subtle shades of grey and brown commonly found in the rest of the bird’s plumage.
The display of bright colors is an important way that male Muscovy ducks compete for mating rights, as attractive males are likelier to win over a female mate.
Red warts also have oil glands that help these birds to preen themselves.
How do you tell if a duckling is a Muscovy?
If a Muscovy duck is suspected, an adult bird should be observed for confirmation.
Adult Muscovys have red caruncles on their faces, which makes them very easy to pick out from others.
In case you plan to get this duck breed for your poultry, rest assured that it’s a perfectly normal feature in domesticated and wild birds of this species alike.
Muscovies are great for egg and meat production.
They might be different from other ducks, but they produce extremely delicious eggs and meat.
They are also less noisy and more affectionate than other ducks, which is why states like Florida allow them to be kept as pets.
Thank you for reading, and I wish you all the best in your efforts to raise Muscovy ducks.