Discover… Musk Ducks

The Musk Duck might just be Australia’s strangest looking waterbird, and the smelliest! This duck is really something to discover. 

What’s in a name? 

Unlike other native ducks, Musk Ducks are not named for their appearance, but their smell. That’s right, their smell! Musk Ducks have a gland that sits on the base of their rump, and this gland produces a strong and very musky smell. Hence, the Musk Duck. But don’t worry, you’d have to be pretty close to get a whiff.  

Unbe-lobe-able looks 

Not only do Musk Ducks have a bit of a stench, but they are pretty strange to look at too. Their most distinguishing feature is a large, bulbous lobe of skin that dangles under its bill. Both male and female Musk Ducks have this lobe, although the female’s lobe is slightly smaller. 

Fighting for love

This lobe of skin isn’t just a strange look though – it serves and practical purpose too as it’s essential for attracting a mate. During mating, male Musk Ducks take part in an energetic display to attract a female. They raise and fan out their feathery tails over their back while they puff out their lobe in a powerful display. This is followed by vigorous kicking and loud whistling sounds. Males will sometimes perform this display for long periods over the day and night. 

If this courtship display is successful, a male Musk Duck can mate with multiple females over the breeding season. However, it’s tough out there and male Musk Ducks sometimes become aggressive rivals, fighting for female affection.  

Diving for their dinner 

Like the Blue-billed Duck, Musk Ducks are excellent divers. They prefer to search under water for most of their food, foraging on the bottom of waterways.  

Unlike other duck species, you’ll rarely see Musk Ducks snacking on greens. They like their food meaty! Being carnivorous they like to feed on small animals such as insects, snails, shellfish, frogs and fish. This species has even been known to eat the occasional duckling! 

Want to know more about the Musk Duck? Download our fact sheet here. Or take the quiz to test how much you really know about ducks!  

Listen to the Musk Duck