Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Dendrocygna autumnalis
Black-bellied Whistling Ducks are primarily found in the warmer regions of the Americas, including the southern United States, Mexico, Central America, and parts of South America. They inhabit a variety of wetland habitats, such as marshes, ponds, lakes, swamps, and flooded grasslands.
They are known for their striking appearance, with necks longer proportionally compared to other ducks, black bellies, chestnut-colored breasts, and contrasting white wing patches.
Black-bellied Whistling Ducks have distinct vocalizations. They produce a whistling call, which gives them their common name. This whistling is often heard when they are in flight or during group activities.
These ducks are primarily herbivorous, feeding on a variety of plant material. Their diet consists of grasses, seeds, leaves, aquatic plants, and grains. They are known to forage on land as well as in shallow water, often grazing in agricultural fields.
Black-bellied Whistling Ducks are cavity nesters. They prefer nesting in tree hollows, abandoned woodpecker holes, or man-made structures such as nest boxes. They may also use elevated nest platforms or dense vegetation for nesting. The ducks do not build elaborate nests but line the cavity or nest site with down feathers and other available materials.
The female duck lays a clutch of 9-18 eggs, usually at a rate of one egg per day. The eggs are white to creamy white in color. Incubation, predominantly carried out by the female, lasts for approximately 24-30 days. The female will leave the nest only briefly to feed during this period.
After hatching, the ducklings leave the nest within a day or two. They are precocial, meaning they are relatively independent and mobile from an early age. The parents guide and protect the ducklings, leading them to forage for food. The young ducks primarily feed on insects, small invertebrates, and aquatic vegetation.
The fledging period for Black-bellied Whistling Ducks lasts around 45-50 days. During this time, the young ducks grow their flight feathers and become fully capable of sustained flight. Once they fledge, the young ducks gradually become more self-sufficient.
While Black-bellied Whistling Ducks are non-migratory in some regions, they do exhibit migratory behavior in other areas. 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 relatively short distances.