Harteman Wildfowl | kvk 90846257 | ubn 6872294

Black-bellied whistling duck (Black-bellied tree duck)

Dendrocygna autumnalis

Roodbek fluiteend (Roodbek boomeend) 

Herbst pfeifgans / Dendrocygne à ventre noir


Also known as the Red-billed Whistling duck - or Tree duck, this species is popular and commonly seen in aviaries in the USA, a little less in Europe. 


Two subspecies are recognized, but origin of type specimens are unclear, leading to confusion over correct alocation of nominate subspecies autumnalis. Southern race has been labelled discolor, with nothern race then as nominate, but re-examniation of the literature indicates that autumnalis should be applied to the southern population, with the northern population then named fulgens. The northern race is distinctive, lacking grey lower breast to hindcollar, but other differences apperently minor. Races intergrade in Panama. 


Sexes are similar as in most other members of this genus, while the females may appear slightly lighter in color. The two most distinguishing features of this species are the bright pinkish-red bill and huge pink feet. The cheeks, head and neck are gray, while the crown, forehead, breast and mantle are dark brown to chestnut. The belly and underparts are black.


In the wild and in warmer climates, the breeding season begins in April and last until October. In more northern areas, the season is much shorter, usually beginning in early May and lasting until July here in Missouri. Hens may choose to lay either on the ground in thick cover or in nest boxes, so be sure to provide both in the aviary. Clutchs are large, usually numbering between 11 and 15. Incubation is done by both the male and the female and lasts about 30 days. Both parents also rear the young, which can fly at about 6 weeks. 

Sometimes incubator-raised ducklings will have trouble learining to eat, so use a "teacher" duckling or encourage them with mealworms.


All of the whistling ducks are some of my personal favorites. Their unique call, awkward appearance (it's those huge feet!!) and adaptabiltity to aviary life make them very appealing to many breeders. This particular species is also very good for beginners, but do require a secure shelter during the coldest winter months.


Perfect for the mixed collection, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks are not trouble makers and will cause no problems to other small species. They do best when kept in small groups.


This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 9,300,000 km². It has a large global population estimated to be 1,100,000-2,000,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2002). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern (IUCN, 2012).



Above: Southern race, Dendrocygna autumnalis autumnalis, following Del Hoyo et al, HBW 2014
(formerly known as Dendrocygna a. discolor)



Above: Northern race, Dendrocygna autumnalis fulgens, following Del Hoyo et al, HBW 2014


Black-bellied whistling duck

Above: close-up of adult bird


Black-bellied whistling duck 

Above: juvenile birds


Black-bellied whistling duck 

Above: ducklings


Black-bellied whistling duck 

Above: adult whistling ducks in flight


Black-bellied whistling duck 

Above: a nest of Black-bellied whistling ducks


Black-bellied whistling duck 

Above: a freshly hatched duckling

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