Already a subscriber? Sign in Don't have a subscription? Subscribe Now
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
Dendrocygna autumnalis
– Family
Authors: James, J. Dale, and Jonathan E. Thompson

Welcome to the Birds of North America Online!

Welcome to BNA Online, the leading source of life history information for North American breeding birds. This free, courtesy preview is just the first of 14 articles that provide detailed life history information including Distribution, Migration, Habitat, Food Habits, Sounds, Behavior and Breeding. Written by acknowledged experts on each species, there is also a comprehensive bibliography of published research on the species.

A subscription is needed to access the remaining articles for this and any other species. Subscription rates start as low as $5 USD for 30 days of complete access to the resource. To subscribe, please visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology E-Store.

If you are already a current subscriber, you will need to sign in with your login information to access BNA normally.

Subscriptions are available for as little as $5 for 30 days of full access! If you would like to subscribe to BNA Online, just visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology E-Store.


Adult Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, Brazos Bend, TX, February
Figure 1. Distribution of the Black-bellied Whistling-Duck in the Americas.

The Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (formerly Black-bellied Tree Duck) is a highly gregarious Neotropical duck that is restricted to the New World. Distinguished from all other whistling-ducks by its red bill, pink feet, and white wing-patch, it is more arboreal than other whistling-ducks and vocal in flight, often repeating a whistling pe-che-che-ne . It nests primarily in natural cavities in trees but will readily use nest boxes.

In North America, this species breeds mainly along coastal regions of Mexico and southern Texas. Only the northernmost populations appear to be migratory, with wintering individuals found along both coasts of Mexico. The Black-bellied Whistling-Duck forms lifelong pair bonds and breeds in its first year. It often lays its eggs in the nests of conspecifics. The diet of this species is comprised of plant materials, especially Bermuda grass and sorghum seeds. Individuals are attracted to areas where corn and rice are grown and can cause damage to crops. The status of this species appears to be secure due in part to its secluded habitats and its lack of importance as a game species. It is showing signs of range expansion in the United States.

Important information is available from studies in Texas (Bolen 1967a, Delnicki 1973, Delnicki and Bolen 1975, Cain 1976, McCamant and Bolen 1979, James 2000) concerning nesting, brood parasitism, and development of young. Nest-box programs have contributed to much of the nesting data collected for this species. Additional studies of reproductive biology and behavior, and of migratory behavior, are needed.