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19 Amazing Facts About Black-Bellied Whistling Duck

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White faced black-bellied whistling duck
Image By cuatrok77 on Flickr @Some Rights Reserved



Birds chirruping sounds and pleasant weather is the best thing to enjoy in the morning time, isn’t it? Watching a flock of birds flying in the sky is very calming and relaxing. Every bird on this beautiful earth has distinct characteristics which make them unique and different from other species. It is very common to see birds flying in the sky, but when you see a bird diving and swimming in water is more fun and eye-capturing.

Black-bellied whistling ducks have so many unique characteristics regarding their habitat, distribution, and many more. You can’t imagine how amazing black-bellied whistling ducks are? So, read this article on 19 amazing facts about black-bellied whistling ducks till the end without missing any fact.

Black-bellied whistling duck has long legs, short tails, bright red bills, and a black belly which distinguish them from the other species of duck. Usually, when we hear the word duck, a beautiful white-colored bird floating on the surface of a pond or shallow water body came up in our mind. But black-bellied whistling ducks are quite unique and interesting species belonging to the water bird’s family Anatidae. In this family of birds, there is a subfamily, Dendrocygninae, to which these whistling ducks belong.

According to some taxonomists the whistling ducks family has only one genus named Dendrocygna which has only eight species. Out of these eight species, the Black-bellied whistling duck is the one with unique and interesting characteristics. Are you excited to know about these ducks or waterfowl? Whether they are ducks or waterfowl, know it in this article.

Also, check our article on 15 animals that hibernate, if you love to know more about animals and wildlife.

Black bellied whistling ducks
By Russ on Flickr @Some Rights Reserved

Black-Bellied Whistling Duck: 

These ducks are quite similar to fulvous whistling ducks in appearance like they also have long legs and they are also producing whistling sounds. But they are slightly larger in size than fulvous whistling duck. Black-bellied whistling duck has a long neck, long legs, greyish head, long red bill, and black belly. It also has a black short tail and white eye-ring. The upper neck part is slightly greyish in appearance. It has broad wings that help in flight.

The scientific name of these geese like tree duck is Dendrocygna autumnalis. Its breeding ranges from tropical Central to south-central South America. This species is found in different geographical regions, that’s why it has various names as well. Like, in Mexico it is called “Pato maizal” which means cornfield duck or in Latin America, it is known as “Sirri” or “Pijije”. But the most commonly it is known as “Whistling duck” all over the South American regions.

Due to the unique appearance of this species, many ornithologists consider it an un-duck-like species. But after so much research and studies, this species comes in one of the eight species of genus name Dendrocygna. And out of eight species of whistling ducks only two are found in the United States. One is black-bellied whistling duck species and the other is fulvous whistling duck species.

These species use trees, water, or land as their habitat and prefer hollow trees for making nests or nest boxes.

Interesting Facts To Know About Black-Bellied Whistling Duck

1. What kind of habitat do they prefer to live in?

As it belongs to a waterfowls or ducks family, hence it is obvious that they inhabit watery areas. These North American birds usually inhabit water, ponds, marshes, or even flooded rice fields. They also forage on the ground, in hollow tree cavities, or in dry and irrigated fields. Due to making the nests or nest boxes in wood or trees, they are also known as wood ducks.

2. Are they plant-eater or animal eaters?

black bellied whistling duck feeding
By angela n. on Flickr @Some Rights Reserved

Similar to the other birds they also love to feed on grains, seeds, waste grains, or other plant species. Besides eating plants it also eats aquatic invertebrates, insects, spiders, and snails as well. In this way, these ducks are both plant and animal eaters. Hence, they are omnivores. They also feed on agricultural fields, rice fields, or shallow water land. The feeding habit of this bird makes it unique.

3. Why they are considered nocturnal birds?

Do you have ever seen a bird feeding at the night? Well, if you saw then it might be a chance that the bird is a black-bellied whistling duck. This is because these ducks are nocturnal and they feed in rice fields or on waste grain during nighttime. At the night they fly by making whistling calls or sounds.

4. Do they love to migrate or not?

black bellied whistling ducks migration
By ALAN SCHMIERER on Flickr @Some Rights Reserved

Generally, every bird loves to move from one location to another during the breeding season or in the winter season. But it is not the case for this bird. Because they are not migratory birds. Some of the birds from their flock migrate to South America from the Northern regions in winters.

Black-bellied whistling ducks usually prefer short-distance migration instead of long-range migration only in winter or breeding season.

5. Why they are considered noisy birds?

As these species belong to the whistling duck family, hence it is also producing whistling sounds like other whistling ducks. Due to the whistling calls, they are said to be noisy birds. They use different sounds that they produce at the time of flight or swimming with a soft or high whistling noise.

6. Why do they have large legs?

Black-bellied whistling duck has large legs. Large legs help them to do climbing and perching easily.

7. Why is a black-bellied whistling duck known as a black-bellied tree duck?

Black-bellied whistling ducks are quite different from true ducks and one of the reasons is that they made their nests in tree cavities. In this thing, they are similar to the Fulvous whistling ducks. These ducks are always found near trees whether they are perching or nesting in trees. Due to which they are also known as black-bellied tree ducks.

8. How many populations of this black-bellied whistling duck are living in the world?

These beautiful brownish grey waterfowl mostly live in flocks except in winter or breeding season. They are indigenous North American birds, which are mostly found in large flocks in Florida, the Mexican border, and South America. The interesting fact is that it is the only species of whistling duck that are native to North America. In most of the regions of South America, it is known as Mexican squealer.

As per the estimations, the population of these ducks is around one or two million all over the world. The largest population of them is found in South Florida and southeastern Texas. There are more than 175 species of ducks or geese around the world. Out of them, the black-bellied whistling ducks have only two subspecies.

These are named northern black-bellied whistling duck, Dendrocygna autumnalis autumnalis, and southern black-bellied whistling duck, Dendrocygna autumnalis fulgens. The only difference between these two species is the size and breast color. The former is large and has brown-colored breasts, while the latter is small in size with gray breasts.

9. Do black-bellied whistling ducks love socialization?

black bellied whistling duck
By capt_tain Tom on Flickr @Some Rights Reserved

These whistling ducks are highly gregarious and always found in large flocks. Their love for being social is seen during their migration. They migrate to a short distance from North America to the south in flocks during the wintertime. They are quite tame and social birds.

Do you know that they flock in a group with up to 1000 birds? It is true. Except for the breeding season, they love to live in large groups.

10. What is the average life span of a black-bellied whistling duck?

According to ornithologists, the average life span of a black-bellied whistling duck is around nine years in its natural habitat. In the wild area, their lifespan is about 6-8 years. As per the records, the specimen of black-bellied whistling duck found in Louisiana was the oldest and lived for ten years and seven months.

11. How the black-bellied whistling duck can share messages in its flocks?

Black-bellied whistling duck prefers social life hence it is very for them to have constant communication. Through the various kind of whistling sounds, they share the message with each other.

For example, at the time of flight, they make loud whistling sounds and when they are on the ground they use to produce small whistles and peeps for communication.

12. Do these ducks can fly or not?

You never see a duck flying in the sky. Well, it is true but not in the case of black-bellied whistling duck. Generally, ducks have small wings due to which they are not able to fly but they can swim or float on water. Ducks are evolved in such form that they can easily swim on the water with their webbed legs. But the black-bellied whistling ducks are unique, as they can fly in the sky but not for long distances. Black-bellied whistling duck can fly slowly for shorter distances.

13. What’s the difference between the names of male and female species?

Although the appearance of both male and female species of the black-bellied whistling duck is the same but not in names. The male black-bellied whistling duck is referred to as a drake and the female black-bellied whistling duck is known as a duck.

14. What is an adaptive feature they have?

The very interesting and adaptive feature of the black-bellied whistling duck is the parallel-sided maxilla that is a bone of upper bill. This adaptive feature makes them able to graze on land or grasses.

Long legs are also an adaptive feature of these bird species which help them to easily move on short grasslands or shallow water bodies. They also do perching with the help of these long pink legs. It is also adaptable to habitats on the gulf coast and urban areas.

15. They lay eggs in others’ nests, is it true or not?

This is true that female duck lays the eggs in the nest of other birds. This behavior of female ducks is known as nest dumping. And the nest in which females lay the eggs is called a dump nest. They lay around 12-16 eggs in dump nests.

After hatching the young ducklings start hopping on land or climbing the wall of the nest to come out in just two days. In spite of dump nests behavior, they also show double brooding behavior.

16. How the babies are different than mature black-bellied whistling ducks?

The young ones that come out from the hatched egg after the completion of the incubation period are called ducklings. Once the young ones come out from the egg, they do not need to rely on their parents although these ducklings stay with them for a few months.

ducklings with black bellied whistling duck
By Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren on Flickr @Some Rights Reserved

These young baby ducklings are very different than mature ducks or drakes. Firstly young ducklings are immature and have spotted black bellies and gray bills, not like the mature ones who have black bellies. And also the babies do not have broad wings like the adults.

17. Why they are monogamous?

Male black-bellied whistling ducks do not prefer multiple females for mating. This is an interesting fact that black-bellied whistling ducks are monogamous similar to geese and swans. This means that males and females have mated with each other for a year. Hence, male black-bellied whistling duck mates with only one female for many years. Once the breeding phase started, both of them started searching a nest or area for laying eggs instead of making themselves.

black bellied whistling duck in lake
By Robert Woeger on Unsplash

These ducks are cavity nesters that’s why they search hollow trees or nest boxes. Sometimes they nest on the ground as well. Both parents share the tasks of caring for their baby ducklings. In most of the breeding range of these ducks, the breeding season is around May to August. And also both of them incubate the eggs as well. After the incubation of about 25-30 days, the baby ducklings come out from the eggs. Although the young birds are able to feed live with their parents for two months.

18. Which IUCN status do these birds have?

International Union for Conservation of Nature is an organization whose main aim is to conserve nature and biodiversity. This organization is more popular because of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN gives status to the different wildlife species in various categories.

According to IUCN, these black-bellied whistling ducks get the conservation status as the least concern. The least concern status means that these species are not at the risk of extinction. More important their population is increasing through the year making it the least concern status in the IUCN red list. You can easily see these aquatic birds in central and south Florida.

19. Are they safe to raise as a pet?

Ducks, swans, and geese are very cute animals and people love to raise them as pets. Besides their beautiful appearance, they are not dangerous. They do not cause any harm due to which people love them to be as their pet.

Well, there is no doubt that the black-bellied whistling ducks can be cute and harmless pet. But it is not a good idea to do. They are more cute and adorable in their own nests. The most important reason is that they are social animals. Hence, it is very unfair to keep them in boundaries instead of with their large flock group member. They look more cute and beautiful in their own natural and wild habitat.

Taxonomy of Black-Bellied Whistling Duck or Tree Duck

  • Kingdom – Animalia
  • Phylum – Chordata
  • Class – Aves
  • Order – Anseriformes
  • Family – Anatidae
  • Genus – Dendrocygninae
  • Scientific Name -Dendrocygna autumnalis
  • Subspecies – 2
  1. Dendrocygna autumnalis autumnalis
  2. Dendrocygna autumnalis fulgens

black bellied whistling duck in flocks
By David Brossard on Flickr @Some Rights Reserved

Additional Information To Know About Black-bellied Whistling Ducks:

Well, the population of these species is not required to be concerned for its conservation as there is an increase in their population in Mexico and Florida. As per the record of IUCN and the National Audubon Society, the population of these birds is around 1,550,000, which is a quite good number.

The National Audubon Society is a non-profit organization whose main mission is to protect birds and their natural resources or habitats. According to a report titled Audubon Birds and Climate change released by the National Audubon Society, in North America climatic conditions are changing drastically which ultimately causes harm to the North American birds including the black-bellied whistling ducks altogether.

The change in climate is not only harmful to birds but even to other wildlife as well. In the USA, there is an organization named Fish and Wildlife Service which works for the conservation of fishes, wildlife, and their natural resources and habitats.

They also focus on the bird conservation and protection of migratory birds as well. For this purpose, they release a duck stamp for the conservation of migratory birds and their habitats. It also manages national wildlife refuge areas.

And don’t forget to tell us which fact you like the most and how many facts are you already know?

A Guide To Native North American Ducks
USA Tales

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1 Comment

  1. I live in Bluffton, SC, right off Hilton Head Island. I’ve been observing my flock of whistling ducks for years. One fact that I never see mentioned is how two males will vigorously attach each other while hovering several feet off the ground. These fights sometimes are quite intense. Are they fighting for some reason pertaining to their mates?

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