• Skip to Content
  • Skip to Main Navigation
  • Skip to Local Navigation
  • Skip to Search
  • Skip to Sitemap
  • Skip to Footer
Help develop a Bird ID tool!

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

Dendrocygna autumnalis ORDER: ANSERIFORMES FAMILY: ANATIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck Photo

The Black-bellied Whistling-Duck is a boisterous duck with a brilliant pink bill and an unusual, long-legged silhouette. In places like Texas and Louisiana, watch for noisy flocks of these gaudy ducks dropping into fields to forage on seeds, or loafing on golf course ponds. Listen for them, too—these ducks really do have a whistle for their call. Common south of the U.S., Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks occur in several southern states and are expanding northward.

Optics Planet birding kit
September 2015Sponsored Ad

Keys to identification Help

Ducks
Ducks
Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    The Black-bellied Whistling-Duck is a large, gooselike duck with a long neck, long legs, and short tail. In flight, look for their broad wings, long neck, and hunched back.

  • Color Pattern

    Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks are dark overall: a chestnut breast and black belly are set off by a bright-pink bill and legs, grayish face, and broad white wing stripe, also visible in flight. Immatures are duller than adults, with a dark bill, pale breast, and mottled black belly.

  • Behavior

    Flocks of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks regularly feed on waste grain in agricultural fields, often at night. Listen for their high-pitched whistles as they travel from feeding fields to roosting sites. They often perch in trees and on logs over water. They nest in cavities and they take readily to nest boxes.

  • Habitat

    Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks roam edges of shallow ponds, golf courses, city parks, and schoolyards. They also frequent agricultural fields, particularly flooded rice fields. They seem to readily adopt human-altered habitats, and this has helped them move north into the southern U.S. in recent decades.

Range Map Help

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Adults

    Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

    Adults
    • Lanky, long-necked duck
    • Bright pink-orange bill
    • Bold white eye-ring on pale gray face
    • © Bill Lynch, Cape May, New Jersey, November 2011
  • Adult

    Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

    Adult
    • Lanky duck with long neck and legs
    • Often perches on trees or other prominent perches
    • Bright pink-orange bill
    • Pale gray face contrasts with chestnut-brown body
    • © Wallace Jones, Lakeland, Florida, July 2012
  • Adult

    Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

    Adult
    • Bright white mid-wing contrasts with black trailing edge in flight
    • Long neck and legs
    • Bright pink-orange bill and feet
    • © Rene Odeide, Green Cay, Florida, October 2011
  • Adults

    Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

    Adults
    • Lanky, long-necked duck
    • Long pink legs
    • Pale gray face contrasts with chestnut-brown body and black belly
    • Bright white eye-ring
    • © Bird_dog57, Florida, September 2008

Similar Species

The unusual, long-legged and long-necked shape makes the whistling-ducks fairly easy to distinguish from other ducks. Fulvous Whistling-Ducks are similarly shaped but slightly smaller. Fulvous Whistling-Ducks are buffy brown overall and lack the black belly, chestnut body, and pink bill of an adult Black-bellied Whistling-Duck. The immatures of the two species are more similar, but Fulvous lacks the big creamy patch on the folded wing and has a more uniform dark brown back.

Backyard Tips

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks take readily to nest boxes. If you live within their range, you can make a nest box out of half-inch marine plywood. It should be about 24 inches high at the front and 20 inches at the back, with a hole about 5–6 inches in diameter (see Bolen 1967 in the Credits section of this account for full instructions).

Find This Bird

If you’re in the range of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks (and that range is expanding all the time—keep an eye on the species’ eBird map to see where they’ve been seen) you should be on the lookout for them perching around shallow ponds; walking in the short grass of lawns and golf courses; and especially in agricultural fields, where these large ducks eat lots of grain. They feed nocturnally, so watch around sunset for large flocks to begin flying out to fields from their roosts.