Whitey, the Muscovy duck
Whitey is a white Muskovy duck that appeared suddenly at Calamvale Creek in August 2007, and disappeared just as suddenly in April 2008.
Muskovies are native to Brazil and Mexico, and other parts of South and Central America. So Whitey was an unexpected arrival among all the native birds and animals of Calamvale Creek.
But Whitey seemed happy enough at the creek.
Although Muskovies are regarded as tropical birds, they can adapt to chilly conditions as well. Apparently the warm habitat at Calamvale Creek suited this one.
Whitey spent nearly all of his (or her) time around the lagoon north of the wooden bridge (see map).
The duck seemed friendly — coming towards people who appeared nearby — but wouldn't come too close. Like the Pacific black ducks and the wood ducks around the creek, Whitey was friendly but skittish.
Muskovies live about 7 or 8 years, and generally have few health problems. They are hardier than other domestic duck breeds, and seem to be the only domestic duck breed that has not descended from the Mallard.
What do they eat?
Insects and fresh grass seem to be popular food for Muskovies. When kept domestically, they enjoy watermelon shells, cabbage leaves, bread, and other food scraps — especially greens.
They eat worms, and help keep down the fly and mosquito population of an area.
Females lay a clutch of about 16-18 eggs — one per day — and the eggs are about 50 per cent larger than hen eggs.
Male Muskovies (drakes) hiss rather than quack. Females make a squeaking sound that varies with the occasion.
The main distinguishing feature of Muskovies is the red caruncle (the rough mask-like feature around the face and eyes).
They have sharp claws to help them grab tree branches when perching (see photo at right).
They are not regarded as good swimmers because their oil grands are not as developed as in most ducks.
But this didn't seem to worry Whitey — who spent a large part of the day swimming or splashing around in the water.