The Masked Duck is a tiny stiff-tailed duck ranging through the tropical Americas. They are found from Mexico to South America and also in the Caribbean. Primarily non-migratory, masked ducks are reported as very uncommon vagrants in the southernmost United States, along the Mexican border and in Florida.
Male – The male Masked Duck has a black face, crown, and throat, the rear of the head is chestnut brown, the eyes are dark-brown with a light colored eye-ring, the beak is light-blue with a black tip, the body is chestnut brown with black speckling, a black tail, mottled wings, and the legs and feet are blackish.
Female – The female masked duck has a whitish-buff face, a dark crown, and a wide dark stripe running through its eye and another wide parallel stripe running from the beak to the nape, and a barred brownish-grey body.
Eclipse – The male in eclipse plumage is very similar to the female but has more white on the wings.
Size: – Typical Adult is 12-14 inches.
Food: – Aquatic plants, seeds, roots, sedges, and also aquatic insects, and crustaceans.
Habitat: – Mangrove swamps, freshwater pools, lakes, and marshes surrounded by heavy tree cover. They are found in tropical parts from Mexico to South America including the Caribbean. They are non-migratory but vagrants have been reported in southern USA including Texas and Florida.
Breeding Season: – Begins November or December in South America and June to October in the Caribbean.
Eggs: – 3 to 6 (buff-white color).
Notes: – The Masked Duck is the only member of the genus Nomonyx and is intermediate to the Stiff-tail ducks and the Black-headed Duck. These are very shy ducks but are also quite numerous.
The different types of wild ducks can be grouped into puddle, aka “dabbling” and diving ducks. The dabblers mostly feed in smaller bodies of shallow water or along shorelines, where they are able to tip their bodies forward to reach their food on the bottom. There are divers who feed in deeper water where they dive and pursue their quarry. Some of these birds, the Harlequin Duck for example, actually dives to the bottom of fast-flowing waters and feeds on life forms attached to rocks.