Black-Bellied Whistling-Duck

Dendrocygna autumnalis

In the USA, only south Texas and Florida can provide reliable, year-round visits with the tree-nesting, dabbling, Black-Bellied Whistling-Duck. During summer in the USA, northeast Texas, the Gulf Coast, Louisiana and the lower Mississippi valley can host these ducks while they raise families. Coastal Mexico, Central and South America sustain resident and migrating communities of these long-legged ducks.

Their whistling call is similar to the American Wigeon, and that, along with their obvious black belly, is how they earned their name.

In most duck species, pair bonds last only long enough to pass genes. In most cases, the drakes abandon the hen, leaving her to rear the young on her own. However, these ducks behave more like geese and swans. Their pair bond lasts a long time, perhaps the life of the birds, and both parents share child-rearing duties, including brooding.

Some observers believe the birds living in Florida should establish a third subspecies, but today’s taxonomists recognise only two subspecies of Black-Bellied Whistling-Duck:

  • D. a. fulgens lives from the southern Texas and southeastern Arizona, and south to Panama.
  • D. a. autumnalis lives from eastern Panama south the western Andes to Ecuador, and east of the Andes to northern Argentina.

In south Texas, the Black-Bellied Whistling-Duck is the most well-represented year-round duck species. While I stayed in my RV near Brownsville, I looked forward to their whistling calls as they flew into the waterway near my camp at all hours, day or night.

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