Musk Duck

Biziura lobata

Musk Duck. Photo: B.Furby

An unusual and uncommon species, closely related to the stifftail ducks (e.g. Blue-billed duck). A heavy bodied duck which sits low in the water. The male is very noticeable when displaying (see photo above). The tail is held upright, the neck bent to show the remarkable circular wattle under the chin, and there is much splashing, and kicking of the feet to give a “ker-plonk” sound sometimes accompanied by a whistle.

Musk Duck female. Photo: Kevin Williams

Musk ducks favour deep water where they dive for crustaceans, aquatic insects, fish, and amphibians, together with a small quantity of vegetation.

Musk Duck male. Photo: John Gitsham

Breeding is mainly in September/October depending in water levels. Musk ducks do not form stable pair bonds. Dominant males mate with several females in a polygynous system after displaying to them. They are aggressive towards one another with much fighting between rival males. Also, and unusually for ducks there is much fighting between siblings in the nest. The females also parasitise the nests of other ducks and even Dusky Moorhens.

Mainly sedentary except for dispersal of immatures and local movement dictated by water levels.


Males are overall blackish-brown without a speculum. Underparts are a paler brownish grey. The bill is broad and grey-black. Under the chin is a circular leathery lobe which increases with age. The female is smaller than the male and lighter, with only a rudimentary lobe. Juveniles are like the female but the lower bill is yellow towards the tip. Usually regarded as monotypic but subspecies B. l. menziesi , found in South Australia, is sometimes recognised as a subspecies distinct from the nominate race in SW Australia.

Where to find it

Look for them anywhere there is deep water with extensive bordering reedbeds, e.g. freshwater marshes, swamps and lakes. They are also to be found in estuaries (e.g. Murray estuary), lagoons and sheltered coasts. However, they are nowhere common and are often found as solitary birds.