At a Glance
A tropical duck, periodically invading southern Texas and Florida. Smaller than the Ruddy Duck and able to take flight from the water much more easily, the Masked Duck may colonize small and temporary bodies of water. It is generally easy to overlook, as it spends much time resting within dense marsh growth, and may clamber about through marsh like a rail. When on open water, however, it can be rather tame.
All bird guide text and rangemaps adapted from Lives of North American Birds by Kenn Kaufman© 1996, used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Duck-like Birds, Ducks and Geese
Freshwater Wetlands, Lakes, Ponds, and Rivers
Direct Flight, Rapid Wingbeats
Range & Identification
Migration & Range Maps
May travel mostly at night. Apparently not truly migratory, but wanders unpredictably. Seems to invade Texas from eastern Mexico after a series of unusually wet years has created much appropriate habitat. Strays have wandered far outside normal range, reaching Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania.
12-14" (30-36 cm). Shape of Ruddy Duck, with flat bill, stiff tail feathers. Breeding male is reddish with black face; female and nonbreeding male with two strong dark stripes on buffy face. White wing patch shows in flight.
About the size of a Crow, About the size of a Robin
Black, Brown, Gray, Orange, White
Multi-pointed, Pointed, Wedge-shaped
Songs and Calls
Usually silent; low grunts and whistling calls.
Marshes, ponds. In United States mainly found on ponds and impoundments with extensive marsh growth and some open water. In tropics also found on mangrove lagoons, swamps, rice plantations.
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4-10. Smaller and smoother than those of Ruddy Duck, whitish to pale buff. Females sometimes lay eggs in each others' nests. Incubation is by female, about 4 weeks. Young: Not well known. Probably leave nest shortly after hatching, are tended by female but feed themselves, as in other stifftails. Age at first flight not known.
Not well known. Probably leave nest shortly after hatching, are tended by female but feed themselves, as in other stifftails. Age at first flight not known.
Forages mostly by diving and swimming underwater, propelled by feet.
Probably mostly plant material. Diet not well known. Apparently eats mostly plant material, including seeds and roots of smartweeds, sedges, grasses, and various other aquatic and waterside plants. Also eats some aquatic insects and crustaceans.
Breeding behavior not well known. The few known Texas nestings have been in fall. Displays of male apparently include raising tail and lowering bill onto chest while making soft calls, also making short rushes across surface of water. Nest site is among marsh vegetation in shallow water. Nest (built by female) is a woven bowl of reeds and grasses, perhaps with sparse lining of down.
Despite wide range in American tropics, seems not to be very common anywhere. Secretive behavior and nomadic movements make it difficult to estimate total population or to provide protection for species.