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
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
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
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