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Black-bellied Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna autumnalis


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Black-bellied Whistling-Duck in fight
credit: Alan D. Wilson/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Anatidae, Ducks and Geese view all from this family

Description ADULT Has an orange-brown back, breast, and lower neck. Upper neck and head are gray, except for rufous crown. Belly is black and note the pale wing panel; in flight, wings look contrastingly black and white. Legs are pink and bill is bright red. JUVENILE Similar to adult, but plumage colors are duller and belly is grayish. Bill and legs are gray.

Dimensions Length: 20-22" (51-56 cm)

Habitat Associated with freshwater wetlands, but also feeds on farmland and grassland. Widespread in Central and South America, this species reaches the northern limit of its range in Texas, where it is locally common, and southern Arizona. Present year-round, although range is more extensive in summer.

Observation Tips Easy to see in southern Texas, especially in winter; hotspots include the Santa Ana and Aransas National Wildlife Refuges.

Range Texas, Southeast, Florida, Southwest

Voice utters a whistling pe-choo.

Similar Species Fulvous Whistling-Duck D. bicolor (L 18-20 in) has similar habits and posture to Black-bellied. However, it is less colorful overall, plumage being rather uniformly orange-brown, darkest on crown, nape, and back. Bill and legs are blue-gray and wings appear uniformly dark in flight. A tropical species at the northernmost limit of its range in southern Texas. Seen only occasionally in region covered by this book, typically during post-breeding dispersal in late spring.

Discussion Colorful long-necked, long-legged duck that often adopts an upright posture, which adds to impression of it being a nervous bird; indeed, typically it is extremely wary. Note also the proportionately long wings. Often perches on branches or rocks, and nests in tree holes. Highly gregarious outside the breeding season. It feeds on aquatic plants, grass, and cereals, as well as freshwater invertebrates; typically it feeds at night. Sexes are similar.