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< > Dendrocygna arborea - West Indian whistling-duck (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)
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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

Black-billed whistling duck
Cuban whistling duck
Antillean tree duck
West Indian tree duck
Cuban tree duck
Black-billed tree duck
Kubapfeifgans (German)
Dendrocygne à bec noir (French)
Suirirí yaguaza (Spanish)
Pato silbador pico negro (Spanish)

Names for newly-hatched

Duckling, downy.

Names for non-breeding males or other colour-phases


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Species Author

Debra Bourne

Major References

B1, B3, B4, B8, B19, B25, B26.

Aviculture references:
B7, B29, B30, B31, B97
D1, D8

Other References

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TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques

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Aviculture Information


General information:
  • Whistling-ducks generally do well, either in pens or in a park with access to extensive water area and good natural cover. They are gregarious outside the breeding season, and groups may bully smaller duck species, so should be kept in large areas, in which other birds have room to escape. Most need shelter in severe weather and a well-sheltered pen with frost-free night quarters for winter is suggested, or plenty of ground cover and/or straw to stand on, as they are susceptible to frostbite. They may be kept fully-flighted in aviaries, and have also been kept full-winged in open pens, tending not to wander. Perches should be provided at an appropriate height for pinioned or wing-clipped birds. Commercial pellets and grain are suitable for feeding.
  • Elevated nest boxes are appreciated by most species, although pinioned birds will use ground-level boxes; boxes may be placed over water or land. Eggs may be incubated by bantams and ducklings may be bantam-reared. Many species have been successfully parent-reared in captivity. Pairs kept isolated and fully flighted in a covered pen, with high-hung nest boxes, "seldom fail to rear broods" (B7). Whistling-duck species may hybridise with one another and therefore should be kept in separate enclosures, and hybridisation has also occasionally been reported with Netta peposaca - Rosy-billed pochard.

(J23.13.w10, B7, B29, B97).

Species-specific information:

  • These whistling-ducks are relatively numerous in collections and are bred fairly regularly. They require much space, preferably a large lake, and a slightly-heated shelter is required in winter. Some individuals are very aggressive, particularly in the breeding season - they have been reported to attack and even drown swans. They may be fed wheat and standard pellets, together with green food such as lettuce, duckweed and grass.
  • West-Indian whistling-ducks are fairly easy to breed; breeding results are best with a single pair. Eggs may be laid in the cover of ground vegetation, or in a ground-level nest box. Laying begins March or later, usually May or June (B31); eggs are laid late April to June (B29). Downies require warmth, but are otherwise simple to hand-rear. They will carry food to the water to eat and may get their plumage soiled with food. If given swimming water, there is a risk of chilling unless they are immediately warmed under the duck or a heating lamp.
  • These ducks may hybridise with Dendrocygna bicolor - Fulvous whistling-duck and Dendrocygna eytoni - Plumed whistling-duck.

(J23.13.w10, B29, B30, B31, B97, D1)

Aviornis UK Ringing Scheme recommended average closed ring size: N 13.0mm (D8).

Management Techniques

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External Appearance (Morphology)

Measurement & Weight

Length 19-23inches, 48-58cm (B1, B3)
Adult weight General About 1150g (B1); average 2.5lb (B8)
Male --
Female Average 1150g (B3)
Newly-hatched weight --
Growth rate --

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Adult Bill Male Black.
Variations (If present) --
Eyes (Iris) Male Dark brown.
Variations(If present) --
Juvenile Bill Black.
Eyes (Iris) Dark brown.

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Adult Male Pinkish grey.
Variations (If present) --
Juvenile Pinkish grey.

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Adult Male Head and neck: white throat shades to pale chestnut on sides of face, darker crown, dark streak down nape and forming a speckled ring lower neck.

Lower neck and breast pale chestnut with paler speckles, becoming white with black speckles on lower breast, abdomen (lacking spots centrally) and undertail coverts. Flanks white with large black speckling.

Upperparts blackish brown with rufous feather edges particularly on the mantle and scapulars. Tail, rump and uppertail coverts brown-black.

Wing black-brown.

Variations (If present) --
Juvenile Duller. Spotting less distinct.

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Newly-hatched Characteristics

General: Upperparts blackish with white markings. Underparts buff-white, dark grey patch on foreneck. Face streaked.
Bill: Grey.
Feet: Grey.

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Reproductive Season

Time of year Varies depending on locality.
No. of Clutches --

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Nest placement and structure

In a tree (in palm leaves or on horizontal branches, in bromeliad clusters), in a tree cavity or on the ground hidden in reeds or thick brush.

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Egg clutches

No. of Eggs Average 9 (B8).
Range 6-12 (B1); 8-12 (B8).
Egg Description Milky white, Size: 55 x 40 mm, weight: 65g.

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30 days (B1, B3, B8).

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50-60 days (B8).

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Sexual Maturity

Males --
Females --

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Feeding Behaviour

Adults Mainly feed at night, either perched in trees or on the ground.
Newly-hatched --

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Parental Behaviour

Nest-building --
Incubation By both sexes.
Newly-hatched Protected by both parents.


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Social Behaviour

Intra-specific Nest in loose groups. Loaf in small groups during the day.
Inter-specific --

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Sexual Behaviour

Form strong, probably permanent pair bonds.

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Predation in Wild


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Activity Patterns

Perch in semi-submerged trees and branches or loaf on waterside banks in the day. Fly out to feed at twilight.
Circadian Mainly nocturnal.

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Natural Diet


Mainly fruit (the royal palm Roystonia is very important in the diet), berries, seeds and grain (mainly rice and corn); sometimes small amounts of animal food.

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Range and Habitat

Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)


Bahamas, Greater Antilles, north Lesser Antilles to Martinique. Recorded in Bermuda.

Small local movements only.

Occasional and Accidental




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Swamps and marshes surrounded by mangroves or other tree cover.

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Intraspecific variation


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Conservation Status

Wild Population -

Rare. Declining population in many areas, and scattered.

Red-data book listing Vulnerable.
Threats Habitat loss and hunting, also persecution to 'protect crops'.

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Captive Populations

Present in reasonable numbers and relatively long-lived but not particularly prolific breeders.

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