The Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis) in the Birds.
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Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
Dendrocygna autumnalis

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis)
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis)


The Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis) is natural to the Americas. Its distribution to the north includes southern United States (in the states of Texas, Arizona and Louisiana) and northern Mexico (state of Sonora on the Pacific side), although it is usual to see it further north than these limits. Continues its distribution south on both sides of Mexico thru Central America. Some make it to the Antilles in the Caribbean, being considered occasional in Puerto Rico.

In South America this species is native to Colombia, Venezuela, the Amazon Basin, southern Brazil, Paraguay and northern Argentina. West of the Andes it goes as far south as Peru. It is documented in Los Lagos, Chile.

A population descendent of escaped captive birds established in the 1960's in the state of Florida, United States. In 1931 it was introduced to Cuba in the Zapata Swamp, earlier it had been introduced in Pinar del Rio. Still found in Cuba, although the ones seen could proceed from other places. Also introduce to Jamaica unsuccessfully, although it is seen there in winter and spring.


Documented from sea level to 1500 meters of elevation.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis) descansando
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis)


This whistling-duck lives in tropical zones. Most of the populations are sedentary, although they move according to food scarcity. Those at the limits of the distribution are migratory, but it is suspected that the wintering grounds are not too far from the nesting areas. The ones nesting in North America in southern United States and northern Mexico winter in southern Mexico.


Shows preference for rice and corn fields, pastures where other grains are cultivated. It is found in fresh water lakes, with and without aquatic vegetation, with shallow shores. Also in places where there are trees, sometimes resting on the branches.


This bird is gregarious. It forms flocks that count in the thousands of individuals.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis)
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis)


The pair bond appears to be strong, perhaps for life. Breeding is once a year. In North America it starts at the beginning of summer, June and July, but it varies according to location. Fidelity for the nesting site is strong, many nests in the same place as the previous year.

Normally nesting is in a hole in a tree, but the nest could be on the ground. The nesting tree can be growing in the water or as far as a kilometer away from the nearest water deposit. Many pairs nesting in holes do not add any material to the location, the female lays the eggs on the bottom of the hole. Of those nesting on the ground some just deposit the eggs on the ground, while others build a cup-shaped nest with grass. Down is not added to the nest.

The clutch is eight to eighteen eggs. Once laying stars an egg is deposited every day. Some females lay eggs in the nest of others, some even on other ducks and even gulls nests. Some clutches are suspected to be where females lay because they have to, but the clutch itself is not incubated nor taken care of. One of these excess clutches was recorded to have 101 eggs. If the clutch is lost, it is possible that the pair may try again.

Incubation takes from 26 to 31 days and it is done by both parents. When the chicks hatch they are yellow with dark marks. Normally next day after hatching they drop from the hole in the tree, which could be as high as three meters, landing on the ground or water. They stay with the parents for the next six months. At two months they are able to fly, at eight moths they change to adult plumage and at one year of age they can start breeding.


The basic diet is made up of grains: corn, rice and other crops. It is complemented with insects and crustaceans.


Sexes have same appearance, except that the females belly's black feathers are less bright. In length this whistling-duck reaches from 48 to 53 cm. The weight is from .7 to 1 Kg.


Molt is once per year. Flight is lost for about three weeks during the molt. In North America the molt is at the end of summer, in August and September, although it occurs at different times according to location.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis). Picture in Gardens at Crandon Park Foundation, Miami, Florida, 2001.
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis)


The Black-bellied Whistling-Duck in Spanish is called “Yaguasa de Pico Rojo”, also:
    Argentina: “Sirirí Ala Blanca”.
    Chile: “Pato silbón de ala blanca”.
    Cuba: “Yaguasa Barriguiprieta” & “Yaguasa Pechinegra”.
    Puerto Rico: “Chiriría Pinta”.
    México: “Pijiji Aliblanco”, “Pato Pijije Aliblano”, “pichichi” & “pato maizal”.

Our thanks to
Gardens at Crandon Park Foundation, Miami, Florida, USA
for allowing us to take pictures in their gardens.

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Last revision: March 1, 2007
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