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  Black-bellied Whistling Duck

Tree Duck,
Mexican Duck)

Order: Anseriformes
Family: Anatidae
Genus: Dendrocygna

 La. anser  goose
La. forma  form, shape, kind
Gr. anous  foolish
La. anas  duck
Gr. Dendro  tree
La. cygna  swan
La. autumnalis 


Black-bellied Tree Duck, Chester A. Reed, The Bird Book, 1914

Chester A. Reed

Long neck, long pink legs, pinkish bill and feet, brown eyes, mostly gray head and neck, brownish breast and back, and black belly and under tail coverts. Males and females look alike

The long legs and necks, and erect stance of whistling ducks give them a goose like appearance. Delacour and Mayr (1945) believed that whistling ducks are more closely related to geese and swans than are other tribes in the family. Black-bellied whistling ducks molt only once a year, as do geese and swans (Bellrose 1976).

The black bellied whistling duck has been described as a �tropical lowland duck�, inhabiting arid (Palmer 1976) and semi-arid (Bolen 1967a) areas in a wide range of habitats including both the tropical and subtropical regions of North and South America (Bolen 1979)

Northern black-bellied whistling ducks breed from southern Arizona and south-central and southeastern Texas through Mexico and Central America. A southern race breeds from Panama to southern Brazil and northern Argentina. Birds at the extreme northern and southern limits migrate. It can be found year-round in parts of southeast Texas, and seasonally in southeast Arizona, and Louisiana's Gulf Coast. It is a rare breeder Florida, Arkansas, Georgia and South Carolina. Flocks have been recorded in tropical coastal lagoons, marshes, mangrove swamps, and coastal prairies to small lakes, flooded timberlands, savannas and cultivated croplands.

USGS Black-bellied Whistling Duck Map

Black-bellied whistling-ducks begin arriving in Texas in April and begin nesting some weeks later. Males and females participate in nest site selection and even can involve as many as five pairs sometimes resulting in communal laying of several hens in a single cavity. They usually build their nests in hollow trees, near or sometimes a distance from water. In addition to tree cavities, on the ground and provided nest boxes, nests of these ducks have been discovered in old machinery, manufactured containers, and even chimneys.

They raise two broods in a season, laying between 9 and 18 white, or cream-white eggs on the bottom of the cavity or box with only a scant lining, if any, of feathers and down. Eggs hatch after about 4 weeks incubation. Like Wood Ducks, as shortly after young appear, they help them to the ground and lead them to the water.

They feed in grain fields and eat shoots and seeds of aquatic plants. Ducklings eat insects, spiders and snails.

They typically fly to and from night-time roosts in large flocks. They are noisy birds with a distinctive clear whistling waa-chooo call. They can walk and run gracefully. They perch on trees, wire fences and highline wires. They are not timid and have been caught and domesticated.

Black-bellied whistling-ducks exhibit swanlike and gooselike traits in their family life. Ducklings climb on the back of a parent, a feature characteristic of swans, and parents have exhibited the gooselike mannerism of placing the young between them when swimming. The duck is able to feed in upland situations, a trait typical of many species of geese.

They prefer rather large entrance holes and deep cavities. The cavity or nest box depth is not a hindrance for ducklings as they are well adapted to climbing the vertical sides of a cavity. Nevertheless, strips of roughened wood, wire, or window screening attached inside the box beneath the entrance hole will aid the exit of ducklings.

Research suggests underbrush can influence the use of nest trees and probably nest boxes. While results are mixed, some found that trees without underbrush are more often used than others and that the understory of active nest trees usually consisted of grasses and other herbaceous vegetation. Further, when the ground vegetation of potential nest trees reverted to a "brush" understory, black-bellied whistling-ducks ceased using the nest trees, possibly because ducklinqs become entangled in the underbrush upon leaving the nest, predators have increased cover and access to nest trees, and whistling ducks have a diminished view of potential cavities.

Have a professional mount a nest box on a tree or post over or near water at least 8 feet or more within 100 feet of a river or a pond. Place some wood chips on the floor. Great heights of nest entrances above either the ground or water are not considered to be harmful factors for ducklings leaving the nest, although it could be for the person mounting a nest box. It�s best to have a professional tradesman do it. Wood Ducks typically nest well before Black-bellied Whistling Ducks and it is possible that both might nest in the tree cavity or nest box.

The Black-bellied Tree Duck Nestbox (same as for Common Goldeneye) has a 12" by 12" floor, 24" inside ceiling, a very large 5" wide by 4" high oval entrance hole located 19" (to the top of the hole) above the floor and ventilation openings.

Assembled with corrosion resistant screws fit to pre-drilled countersunk pilot holes.  Hinged roof is secured with shutter hooks for easy access.

Free Printable Nestbox Plans and Dimensions for Common Goldeneye
Black-bellied Tree Duck
Nestbox Plans


Goldeneyes, Kestrels, Screech owls and Squirrels may use this box.


Black-bellied Tree Duck, Federal Duck Stamp 1990

Information is borrowed heavily from US Fish & Wildlife Service Biological Report: Habitat Suitability Index Models: Black-bellied Whistling Duck, 1988, by Paul M. McKenzie and Phillip J. Zwank


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