Musk Ducks have legs that are placed far back on the body to help them swim and dive, making them clumsy walkers. So, unlike many other duck species, they are very rarely seen on land, preferring to stay in the water.
The male Musk Duck is the largest of Australia's ducks and has a powerful build. Musk Ducks get their name from the strong musk odour produced from a gland on the rump. The female is smaller than the male. Both male and female Musk Ducks are sooty-brown in plumage, with paler brown barring on the body and fine spots of the head. They are paler below, becoming whiter towards the abdomen. The male is decorated with a large bulbous lobe of skin hanging under his bill. This sac increases in size at the start of the breeding season. The female also has a much-reduced lobe on the underside of its bill, only visible at a short distance. The bill is dark grey in both sexes and the eye dark brown. The tail is a collection of long, stiff feathers, which can be held in a fan-shape. Young Musk Ducks are similar to the adult female, but are paler, with a dull yellow tip on bill, and no lobe.
Musk Ducks tend to be found in deep freshwater lagoons, with dense reed beds. They are normally seen singly or in pairs, but may form medium to large groups in the winter. Flight usually takes place at night. The birds' bulky size means a large distance is required for take off, and the landing is often quite clumsy.
Musk Ducks are found only in Australia. They range from north-west Western Australia, through the south and east to southern Queensland, and can be found several hundred kilometres inland in some areas.
Feeding and diet
Despite their bulky appearance, Musk Ducks are excellent divers, and search underwater for the majority of their food. They mainly feed on animals, including aquatic insects, crustaceans, snails, shellfish, fish, frogs and ducklings, but some seeds of aquatic plants are also eaten on occasion.
The male Musk Duck has an energetic courtship display. He raises and fans the tail over the back, inflates the lobe on the throat, splashes water with vigorous kicks of his feet and throws his head back while uttering a loud whistle. This display is performed for long periods at a time, both night and day. The nest is a large cup of trampled vegetation, loosely lined with fine grasses and feathers, and is hidden in dense reeds. One clutch of eggs is laid each year.
- Breeding Season: September to December.