When I looked this duck up in my bird book, the first comment in the description was ‘A very strange duck’. Not particularly ornithological, but very true. As Australian birds go, it’s not as strange as some (think emu or pelican), but still strange.
This is a male, with a rather odd flap of skin under his neck. The females and the young don’t have one, it just develops on the males as they mature. It doesn’t have a normal ‘quack’ either. When he’s displaying, the male can manage a combined grunt and whistle at the same time, while the female grunts.
They aren’t terribly agile in flight, so they avoid flying most of the time, but they are incredibly good under-water swimmers. They spend long periods under-water, hunting along the mud on the bottom of the lake or marsh.
Their tail is different to most ducks too. When they are under-water, it fans out and helps with balance. When they sleep, they fan it out on the surface. And when he is displaying, the male fans it out and flips it over his back to impress the ladies.
Musk ducks are only found in Australia, and only in the south-west, east and south-east. It gets its name from the ‘musky’ odour it gives off during the breeding season apparently. I can’t confirm this, but if I ever get close enough to sniff a breeding duck I’ll be sure to let you know.