Whistling Duck, Black-bellied

Dendrocygna autumnalis

Only species of whistling tree duck with a bright pink bill which grades to gray at the nail and to yellow behind the nostrils. The tail, upper tail coverts, flanks, and under parts are black, the breast and lower neck are chestnut to grayish, and the back feathers are chestnut. The face is grayish, with a white eye-ring, and the crown is brownish. Males and females are similar. Juveniles have grayish feet and bills, and are generally duller than adults.








Northern race breeds from southeastern Texas, Sinaloa, and Nuevo Leon south to the Canal Zone; migratory at northern end of range, otherwise resident. Southern race breeds from eastern Panama and northern South America southward to northern Argentina on the east. Also resident in Trinidad.


Favors tropical lagoons with some tree cover on the margins. Attracted to agricultural areas where corn and rice are grown

Life Expectancy

Sexual Maturity

Sexually mature at 1 year.


Largely vegetarian feeding on grasses and seeds. Feeds mainly on the ground by grazing or wading and by dabbling in shallow water. In captivity they are fed a commercial waterfowl diet.


IUCN - Least Concern


Black-bellied whistling ducks form permanent pair bonds. If one mate dies however, a new mate will be taken by the survivor. Copulation occurs in very shallow water or while the birds are standing at the shoreline. One or both members of the pair perform drinking movements before treading. This is followed by mutual calling and partial wing lifting by the male. The nesting period ranges from June through August. These ducks prefer to nest in tree cavities but will nest on the ground in a shallow basket that is constructed of woven grasses. The clutch size varies, usually 12 to 16 eggs are laid and incubation is performed by both sexes. The young hatch in 26 to 31 days and are strongly patterned, but mostly black above and yellow below. Fledging occurs in 53 to 63 days.


The bill structure is modified for terrestrial grazing.

Special Interests

Black-bellied whistling ducks are highly gregarious and often occur in flocks of up to several thousand individuals.



Because they have such a large range, their status is considered secure and no additional conservation measures are needed.

Jacksonville Zoo History


Emerald Forest Aviary