The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided that the Muscovy Duck needs to be listed as a native species and added to the Migratory Bird List and thus protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Listing such a popular domestic duck as a wild native and extending it that kind of protection is inappropriate. Duck owners have responded loudly, and the regulation, which took effect March 31, 2010, is being reconsidered. As of now, those who own and breed Muscovy ducks will not be asked to make any changes and are permitted to keep their ducks without any additional permits or paperwork. This painting of Muscovies by Hashime Murayama comes from the National Geographic magazine of March 1930, Fowls of Forest and Stream Tamed by Man.
The USFWS understands that “The muscovy duck is native to Mexico, Central and South America.” The agency decided to declare it native to the U.S. after finding that “it has recently expanded its range from Mexico to Hidalgo, Starr, and Zapata counties in south Texas.” http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/NewReportsPublications/FactSheets/Muscovy%20Fact%20Sheet%203-31-2010.pdf That means it’s an exotic invader everywhere else in the U.S. As such, Muscovies anywhere outside those south Texas counties can be killed without any restrictions, http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2010/03/31/Open-season-on-Muscovy-ducks/UPI-43191270061825/
Incredibly, the FWS somehow was not aware of the many poultry fanciers who keep Muscovies, or the fact that they are recognized by the American Poultry Association (and have been since the first Standard in 1874, when the White variety was included). The agency was unaware of the International Waterfowl Breeders Association, the specialty breed exhibition organization, http://www.crohio.com/IWBA/index.html.
So, although the original proposal to list the Muscovy as a Migratory Bird was made in 2006, and the rule changes in 2009, the agency didn’t notify any of the people who would be most concerned. I didn’t hear about it until the rule change took effect in March, and I’ve been involved with poultry all along. Last October, at the SEJ conference, I had dinner with FWS director Sam Hamilton, who died unexpectedly in February, and several members of his staff. He seemed a capable guy, and his staff attentive and responsive to journalists’ inquiries. Unfortunately, the Muscovy changes were already in progress, and the subject never came up.
“State wildlife agencies were advised," their Fact Sheet states. "However, although any member of the public could have commented, we were unaware of the extent to which muscovies are maintained in captivity and did not know of any organization to inform about the proposed changes. Therefore, many muscovy duck owners likely were not aware of the proposal.”
The general outcry has prompted the agency to take another look at the situation.
“As a result of information received since publication of the final rules, the Service has
decided to revise the regulations,” the agency’s Fact Sheet states.
I’m grateful that the agency is willing to reconsider this odd decision to change the legal status of Muscovy ducks. I’m sad that this agency was so far removed from its subject and the people who love Muscovies that they were unaware that they even existed. Let’s hope this episode opens some lines of communication and leads to better information on both sides.