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Australian musk duck

Biziura lobata

Australische lobeend / Lappenente / Érismature à barbillons

The musk duck (Biziura lobata) is a highly aquatic, stiff-tailed duck native to southern Australia. It is the only living member of the genus Biziura. This animal derives its common name from the peculiar musky odour it emanates during the breeding season. Musk ducks are moderately common through the Murray-Darling and Cooper Creekbasins, and in the wetter, fertile areas in the south of the continent: the southwest corner of Western Australia, Victoria, and Tasmania.


The relationships of this peculiar species are quite enigmatic. It is traditionally included with the stifftail subfamily Oxyurinae, but appears only distantly related to the genus Oxyura, and its peculiarapomorphies make it difficult to place. Its relationship with the equally strange pink-eared ducks (Malacorhynchus) is unresolved but seems to be quite close, and it seems to be part of an ancient Gondwanan radiation of Anatidae. As such, it is quite closely related to the stiff-tailed ducks proper, but as it seems not as closely as generally believed, with many similarities due to convergent evolution. 


Its food consists chiefly aquatic invertebrates (insects and their larvae, molluscs, crustaceans, arachnids), amphibians, some fish and even small ducklings of other species. The duck is rather silent overall, except male advertising calls and those of ducklings.


Two subspecies recognized. Subspecies and Distribution:

  • B. l. lobata Shaw, 1796 – SW Australia.
  • B. l. menziesi Mathews, 1914 – SE Australia (C South Australia E to S Queensland, S to Victoria) and Tasmania.

This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern (IUCN, 2012).


It is not kept in aviculture as far as we know and has only been kept a few times in the past.



Above: male musk duck display. Photo by Paul Rushworth, Australia



Above: male musk duck display. Photo by Paul Rushworth, Australia



Above: adult female musk duck. Photo by Paul Rushworth, Australia



Above: adult male musk duck. Photo by Paul Rushworth, Australia


A Hatching Success from Simon Cherriman on Vimeo.

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