Photo: Ron Bielefeld/Audubon Photography Awards

Masked Duck

Nomonyx dominicus

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.
Conservation status 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.
Family Ducks and Geese
Habitat 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.
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.
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Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly by diving and swimming underwater, propelled by feet.


Eggs

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.


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.

Diet

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.


Nesting

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.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

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.

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Migration

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.

Songs and Calls
Usually silent; low grunts and whistling calls.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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