Male and female black-bellied whistling ducks are similar in size and color. In general, black-bellied whistling ducks are long-legged, long-necked and the most erect of all ducks. They have a black belly with a chestnut nape, lower neck, chest and back. A chestnut cap tops the head. They boast a bright orange bill, gray face and upper neck and white eye ring. The long pink legs are easily observed while they are perched in trees. They are vociferous in flight, uttering a whistling "pe-che-che."


The northern race (D. a. autumnalis) breeds from southern Texas through coastal Mexico and Central America. Pairs most often partner for life and share the responsibilities of incubation and brood rearing. Nests are usually located in tree cavities, nest boxes or on the ground in grassy areas or under brush or cacti near water. Ground nesting is most common where mammalian nest predators are absent. Female black-bellied whistling ducks lay an average of 13 eggs and several females lay in the same nest.

Migrating and Wintering

Black-bellied whistling ducks are migratory in the northern- and southernmost limits of their range. Large flocks are often observed in wintering areas in the lowlands of Mexico, though formerly more abundant in interior Mexico than at present. In the United States, they winter primarily in southern coastal Texas. Black-bellied whistling duck are widespread and common in Central America and South America south to northern Argentina (Scott and Carbonell, 1986).


D. a. autumnalis (Caribbean) between 100,000-1,000,000; D. a. bicolor (Neotropics) >1,000,000 (Rose and Scott, 1994). Black-bellied whistling ducks are susceptible to over-harvest due to their unwary nature.

Food habits

Black-bellied whistling ducks commonly feed at night on grain, seeds, some insects and mollusks and leaves and shoots found in fields and shallow water.

Black-bellied Whistling Duck
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