Alice Springs Waste Stabilisation Ponds

This is the first documented sighting of the Musk Duck (Biziura lobata) in Alice Springs and the Northern Territory, a rarity and most likely a vagrant bird.

Musk ducks are moderately common through the Murray-Darling and Cooper Creek basins, and in the wetter, fertile areas in the south of the continent: the southwest corner of Western Australia, Victoria, and Tasmania.

Musk Duck (Biziura lobata), Alice Springs Sewerage Ponds NT © Dorothy Latimer
Musk Duck (Biziura lobata), Alice Springs Sewerage Ponds NT © Dorothy Latimer

The Musk Duck (Biziura lobata) is a large stiff-tailed duck with a heavy triangular bill that is native to southern Australia. Both the male and female are dark grey in colour, the male having an obvious lobe of skin dangling from its chin. Usually observed on the water, regularly diving while feeding.

The legs of the Musk Duck are placed far back on the body, an aid for swimming and diving, however it does make them clumsy walkers and unlike other duck species, they prefer to stay in the water. They are very rarely seen on land.

Musk Duck (Biziura lobata), Alice Springs Sewerage Ponds NT © Dorothy Latimer
Musk Duck (Biziura lobata), Alice Springs Sewerage Ponds NT © Dorothy Latimer

The Musk Duck derives its common name from the musky odour that emanates during the breeding season.

Musk Duck (Biziura lobata), Alice Springs Sewerage Ponds NT © Dorothy Latimer
Musk Duck (Biziura lobata), Alice Springs Sewerage Ponds NT © Dorothy Latimer

The only living member of the genus Biziura, two subspecies are named (with an East-West Genetic Differentiation), although many site only list the single species.1

Musk Duck (Biziura lobata), Alice Springs Sewerage Ponds NT © Dorothy Latimer
Musk Duck (Biziura lobata), Alice Springs Sewerage Ponds NT © Dorothy Latimer
Musk Duck (Biziura lobata), Alice Springs Sewerage Ponds NT © Dorothy Latimer
Musk Duck (Biziura lobata), Alice Springs Sewerage Ponds NT © Dorothy Latimer

The photographs presented here were taking in the February 2023.


  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Vertebrata
  • Informal: Gnathostomata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Anseriformes
  • Family: Anatidae
  • Genus: Biziura
  • Species: Biziura lobata
  • Subspecies:
    • Biziura lobata lobata Shaw, 1796
    • Biziura lobata menziesi Mathews, 1914

Footnote & References

  1. East-West Genetic Differentiation in Musk Ducks (Biziura lobata) of Australia Suggests Late Pleistocene Divergence at the Nullarbor Plain, by PJ Guay · 2010, Published version of the following publication Guay, Patrick-Jean, Chesser, RT, Mulder, RA, Afton, AD, Paton, DC and McCracken, KG (2010) East-West Genetic Differentiation in Musk Ducks (Biziura lobata) of Australia Suggests Late Pleistocene Divergence at the Nullarbor Plain. Conservation Genetics, 11. pp. 2105-2120. ISSN 15660621, Victoria University, Melbourne Australia, https://vuir.vu.edu.au/6761/1/%286761%29Revised_submission_Guay_et_al_Cons_Gen.pdf
  2. Biziura lobata (Shaw, 1796), Musk Duck, Atlas of Living Australia, https://bie.ala.org.au/species/https://biodiversity.org.au/afd/taxa/eedce521-aaa8-43fa-bbd7-0074d0bcbf4b
  3. Musk Duck, Biziura lobata, eBird, https://ebird.org/species/musduc1?siteLanguage=en_AU
  4. Musk Duck, Biziura lobata, Australian Museum, https://australian.museum/learn/animals/birds/musk-duck-biziura-lobata/
  5. Musk Duck (Biziura lobata), M Dahlem, https://www.mdahlem.net/birds/2/muskduck.php

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