Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the April 28, 2008 Newsletter written in the community of 28 de Junio, in the Central Valley 8 kms east of Pujiltic, Chiapas, MÉXICO
about 800 meters in elevation, ± LAT. 16° 18'N, LONG. -92° 28'

The other day one of our International Human Rights Observers came to me wide-eyed reporting a ducklike bird noodling along the banks of an irrigation canal. Because the bird took flight when spooked he assumed it was wild, though he'd never seen a duck quite like that one.

It was a Muscovy Duck, CARINA MOSCHATA, native to Mexico south to Argentina, and though it's native here it's not on my list of the community's 100 bird species because I judge our local Muscovies to be at least partly domesticated. Truly wild birds are black with white wing patches while ours have more white. Some of our Muscovies do fly very gracefully and are practically wild, while others stay penned behind low fences, waddling among the chickens. On the farm back in Kentucky we used to have Muscovies, which we called Whispering Ducks because male Muscovies can only hiss, though females can utter low quacks.

Back in the 70s when I accompanied Maya-ruin-visiting tourists on boat trips up and down the Usumacinta River between Guatemala and northern Chiapas I used to see black, fast-flying Muscovies who undoubtedly were wild stock. I've not returned there since the area was thickly settled and deforested by Guatemalan refugees and transplanted Mexicans, so I don't know if truly wild Muscovies still grace the Usumacinta -- along with Scarlet Macaws who even then were disappearing fast.

Maybe a reader who has been on the Usumacinta lately can tell me.