Bird Families

Autumn Wood Duck / Dendrocygna autumnalis


Black-bellied Whistling Duck

The black-bellied whistling duck, or the autumn tree duck, or the autumn duck, is a medium-sized waterfowl of the duck family that lives in tropical regions of America.

1. Description

Like other wood ducks, the autumn duck has an intermediate appearance between ducks and geese. Its length is 47 - 50.7 cm, weight 652 - 1020 g. The neck and legs are long, and the wings are wide and short, like those of geese. The head is brownish-gray, with unfeathered white areas around the eyes and a narrow dark stripe from the crown down to the back of the head. The beak is rather long, pink or reddish in color. The plumage of the back is light brown, the chest and lower part of the neck are chestnut, the belly is black. Flight feathers are white at the base and black at the end - this pattern shows a distinct white spot on the wings during flight. Legs are pink, well adapted for sitting in trees and climbing. Sexual dimorphism is not pronounced. Young birds that have not reached sexual maturity are similar to adults, but they are somewhat duller in color. Their ventral part is predominantly gray-brown, the beak is gray, and the legs are pinkish-gray.

2. Dissemination

It is one of two species of wood ducks that live exclusively in the New World; the second species, the black-billed duck, is endemic to the Antilles. The northern boundary of the range runs in North America through the southern states of the United States of Arizona, Texas and possibly Louisiana and the northern Mexican state of Sonora, south through northern Argentina. In South America, it is distributed east of the Andes. Separate flights of these birds have been recorded far beyond the range - up to the Great Lakes regions in the north and on the islands of the Caribbean Sea. Occurs at altitudes up to 1500 m above sea level.

Inhabits shallow water bodies with stagnant fresh water and woody vegetation along the banks: forest bogs, peat bogs, flood meadows, shallow lakes. He tries to avoid large lakes with open water. Preference is given to places where there are nearby fields planted with rice, corn or other grain crops. Usually a sedentary species, however, in search of food, it can migrate, including outside the permanent range. They migrate only at the northern border of the range. During migration they fly at night, in large flocks and noisily.

3. Reproduction

Pairs persist for a long time, this behavior is not typical for other wood ducks. Breeding season in the southern United States in May-June, in Costa Rica in May-October, in Venezuela in September-October. Usually one clutch per year, but in some regions the female is able to lay it twice. The nest is usually located in the hollow of an oak, willow or mesquite tree at a height of 2.4 - 3 m, but if necessary, it can be arranged on the ground in reed thickets or among cacti. The birds also occupy artificial nests. In the case when the nest is arranged on the ground, it is a shallow bowl-shaped formation of grass with a downy lining; wood dust is used as a litter in the hollow. The male and female both participate in the arrangement of the nest. Clutch contains 9 - 18 whitish eggs without speckles. The size of eggs is 50 x 39 mm, weight is about 44 g. Sometimes there are large clutches containing up to 65 eggs - such clutches are tossed by several birds and are not protected. The incubation period lasts 25 - 30 days, male and female incubate alternately. Chicks hatch synchronously. They are covered with thick yellow down and within one or two days are able to leave the nest and forage for themselves. The ability to fly appears in 53-63 days.

4. Nutrition

The basis of nutrition is plant food - vegetative parts of aquatic plants, coastal grasses and grain crops. In addition, he eats shellfish and insects. It feeds mainly in the dark, in shallow water or on land. Often, in search of food, it enters the fields sown with grain.

Usage Information

Photo "Black-bellied Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis)" can be used for personal and commercial purposes according to the conditions of the purchased Royalty-free license. The image is available for download in high quality with resolution up to 6000x4000.

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Bird lifestyle

For their habitat, wild ducks and any others almost always choose places in the immediate vicinity of water bodies.

Ideally, these are bays, wetlands, and rivers with a lot of different vegetation.

If this is a place where it is impossible to hide, then most likely the bird will not settle there. That is, it is unlikely that it will be possible to find a bird on any body of water with bare banks.

General characteristics

The genus Dendrocygna unites 8 species of ducks of various colors without sexual dimorphism, medium size, with a relatively long neck and high legs. The inclusion of these birds of the family duck (Anatidae) in the subfamily of goose (Anserinae) is explained by the external resemblance to a goose sitting on the ground in an upright duck position. In flight, all representatives of the genus are more like real ducks.

The habitat of representatives of the genus Dendrocygna is subtropical and tropical reservoirs with slowly flowing or stagnant water in South and Central America, Australia, South Asia, Central Africa. They prefer to settle in large colonies along the banks, densely overgrown with trees, on which they spend most of the day, which predetermined the name of their genus. Due to their characteristic feature - a loud melodic whistle, which birds use to communicate with each other in flight or on the water, ducks got their second common name - whistling.

Birds are active mainly at night. The basis of food is aquatic plants, as well as small crustaceans and insect larvae obtained by diving and by filtering through the beak of the upper layers of water densely populated with phytoplankton. They nest on the ground near the reservoir, knocking out a small hole in the ground, some build nests in the fork of the lower branches of trees, hollows. Male and female incubate the clutch alternately and jointly take care of the offspring.

In nature, an adult duck can become prey for birds of prey, crocodiles and boas, and occasionally for predatory mammals common to the area where a certain species of Dendrocygna lives. Ducklings are more vulnerable, as they can be eaten by large fish and piranhas living in tropical waters, by large semi-aquatic birds such as seagulls, storks and others. The main threat to the population is represented by humans, destroying the usual habitat (cutting down trees, draining swamps and pollution of water bodies). In some countries, wood ducks are recognized as harmful due to their regular feeding on plantations of cultivated plants (primarily rice). Here the bird is expelled from the nesting sites and is shot back.

Today the species Dendrocygna arborea is listed as rare in the IUCN International Red List. Along with the Cuban whistling, the wild duck populations of Ghana and Honduras are considered endangered and therefore subject to the convention banning international trade in species of wild fauna: D. autumnalis (Autumn), D. viduata (White-faced), D. bicolor (Red).

Ducks' contact with humans

If we talk about breeding ducks, then the important point here is that ducks, as a rule, get used to people in a very short time, and therefore they can often be seen on any body of water in the city. They easily accept almost any treat from people, and easily make contact.

Ducks are considered migratory birds, so they migrate directly for food. When it gets cold outside, it becomes difficult to get food and then the ducks fly south.

Active flights in birds begin after the duck gets on the wing and gets really strong to be ready for long-distance flights.

During the flight, the flock must follow the leader, observing the order. Almost all flight routes take you through the places where you can find food.

Captive breeding

Most common in the collections of aquatic bird breeders are Woody (Whistling) ducks of the following species: Dendrocygna viduata, Dendrocygna bicolor, Dendrocygna eytonias well as the Northern subspecies D. autumnalis autumnalis and Australian variety D. arcuata australis... The subspecies Southern in Black-bellied and Asiatic in Wandering wood ducks are less common in nurseries, as well as Dendrocygna guttata. Dendrocygna arborea are kept in captivity reluctantly, despite the longevity of representatives of this species, since they are not particularly fertile. Even rarer in nursery collections Dendrocygna javanica.


Ducks of the genus Dendrocygna are social species that peacefully get along with individuals of their genus and representatives of other genera in large mixed groups on the same site. Some aggressiveness was noted only in Dendrocygna arborea ... Therefore, outside the breeding season, it is possible to keep different species of birds in one spacious aviary. It is only advisable to keep track that these are ducks of approximately the same size, since the larger ones can drive away the smaller ones from the feeder and drinker.

Ducks feel great on an area where there are dense plantations (tall grasses, shrubs and trees) and a reservoir of at least 1 m deep, the size of which allows them to swim. The area of ​​the fenced area should correspond to the number of birds kept, providing it with the opportunity to retire, hide. Small shelters on an open top area in the form of sheds, huts and booths are necessary as shelters from birds of prey, bad weather, and also for overnight stays. When building aviaries, it is worth considering the bird's desire to fly, covering them from above, or regularly trimming the wings.

In winter, ducks, being predominantly tropical inhabitants, need reliable protection from the cold. Capital buildings with deep straw bedding or a thick layer of sawdust will save the bird from hypothermia and frostbite of the paws in winter. Depending on the severity of the climate, it is worth considering a variety of ways to warm up a winter room when the temperature in it drops from 0 degrees and below.

Dendrocygna ducks are predominantly monogamous and nest in colonies, but during the breeding season, it is necessary to settle the birds of different species to avoid hybridization. Mixing of species occurs rarely, and only with an excess of sexually mature males that do not have a constant pair. On the nesting site, various locations for laying eggs are organized: boxes and houses on the ground, as well as raised 1 meter and higher from its surface. Some species happily nest in spacious nesting boxes fixed to trees. Most of the pairs will nevertheless place their clutches in small pits on the ground, densely overgrown with reeds and other tall vegetation.


Under natural conditions, 3/4 of the diet of ducks of the genus Dendrocygna is food of plant origin: vegetative parts of aquatic and coastal plants, their fruits, seeds, bulbs, as well as cereals growing in nearby fields (mainly rice and corn), berries, fruits, etc. palm seeds. The proportion of animal food in most species is insignificant and is presented in the form of small crustaceans, molluscs and insect larvae living in reservoirs, less often frogs.

When kept in captivity, it is easy to provide adequate nutrition for wood ducks. A variety of cereal mixes and granules are suitable for feeding them. For Dendrocygna javanica there are indications to add millet to standard cereal mixes or to use imported Finch mixes. Drinking bowls with enough clean water are vital for ducks, especially if the site does not even have a small pool for swimming.

Ducklings grow well on standard starter compound feeds and happily eat chopped lettuce or spinach leaves. Artificially bred chicks sometimes eat poorly during the first days, so boiled eggs or mealworms are added to their feed. It is important to provide pairs of ducks with a brood with the opportunity to graze on fresh grass or give access to shallow water bodies overgrown with aquatic vegetation (duckweed, reeds, etc.). Such conditions of keeping contribute to better preservation and growth of young animals; daily bathing under the supervision of adult birds is safe.


Sexual dimorphism in Whistling ducks is practically not expressed, apart from minor differences in the size of the male and female. Immature individuals are colored only more faded than adult birds. There are slightly more gray shades in their color. Sexual maturity occurs at 9 months, but it is customary to allow young ducks to breed in captivity in the second year of their life.

The length and length of the breeding season depends on the climate of the area where Dendrocygna ducks are kept in captivity. So, in nurseries in the USA, it usually falls in April-June. In warmer latitudes, the periods are extended from March to September-October. During this time, the female makes 3-4 clutches, the eggs from which can be removed from the nest for subsequent incubation using bantam chickens or industrial incubators.

Eggs selected for artificial incubation are marked with the nest number and number. Store them before laying in an incubator in a cool room with a temperature not exceeding 59 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (15-180 Celsius), placing them with a sharp tip down, and no longer than a week. The incubation temperature of the eggs is 990 F (370 C) with a relative humidity of about 70%. With the onset of hatching of ducklings, the temperature is reduced, the humidity is increased to 95%.

The brood in the first week is kept in a nursery (for example, a cardboard box heated by an incandescent lamp) at a temperature of 90-950 F (32-350 C). Reduce it by 10 degrees (Fahrenheit) each week. Monthly chicks usually no longer need heating. In the first week of life, ducklings are not placed in swimming containers, as they can get wet and drown.

An artificially incubated brood should grow in groups of the same age, otherwise weaker and smaller ducklings will receive less nutrition. With frequent communication with a person in the first weeks of life, ducklings quickly become tame. The easiest way is to entrust the incubation and upbringing of their parents, who together warm the clutch and take care of the chicks until their plumage - from 7 to 13 weeks, depending on the species.

Photo of ducks


Distributed in the tropical and subtropical zones. The spotted duck lives on the islands of Australasia: in New Guinea, Sulawesi, Mindanao, the Lesser Sunda Islands, the Bismarck archipelago. There you can also see a wandering duck - it inhabits Northern Australia, the Philippines, the islands of Java and Kalimantan, the Lesser Sunda and Moluccas, New Guinea and New Britain. The pink-footed duck is native to southern and eastern Australia. The duck settles in South and Southeast Asia from India in the west to the islands of Java and Kalimantan in the southeast. The range of the red duck is more extensive - it occupies the tropical regions of America in the interval between the southern regions of the United States and central Argentina, sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar and South Asia (India and Myanmar). The white-faced duck also lives in Africa and Central and South America.A purely American species - the autumn duck - its range is located between the southern regions of the United States and Northern Argentina. Finally, the black-billed duck is endemic to the Antilles.


  • Black-billed wood duck (Dendrocygna arborea

Wandering Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna arcuata

Autumn Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis

Ginger Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna bicolor

Eaton's duck (Dendrocygna eytoni

Spotted Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna guttata

Small Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna javanica

White-faced Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna viduata