Kingdoms / Animalia / Craniata / Aves / Anseriformes / Anatidae / Dendrocygna / Species
< > Dendrocygna eytoni - Plumed whistling-duck (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)
Click on photograph for full-screen view Click on photograph for full-screen view









Click image to return to Waterfowl Contents FlowchartCONTENTS

Click image for list of Waterfowl Species

Click image for list of Waterfowl Agents
Click image for list of Waterfowl Diseases
Click image for list of Waterfowl Environmental Events / Factors

Return to top of page

General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

Eyton’s Whistling-duck
Plumed tree duck
Red-legged tree duck
Eyton’s tree duck
Grass whistling duck
Grass Whistler
Grass whistle-duck (Australia)
Dendrocygne d'Eyton (French)
Gelbfuß-Pfeifgans (German)
Tüpfelpfeiefgans (German)
Suirirí Australiano (Spanish)
Pato silbador adornata (Spanish)

Names for newly-hatched

Duckling, downy.

Names for non-breeding males or other colour-phases


Return to top of page


Species Author

Debra Bourne

Major References

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

Aviculture references:
B7, B29, B31, B97, B139
D1, D8

Other References

Click image for main Reference Section

Return to top of page

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

Parent Group

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques

Return to top of page

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:

  • Plumed whistling-ducks are sociable and may be kept in groups, or as single pairs in large enclosures with good vegetation for breeding. They require frost-free housing for winter and can be kept in aviaries. They may be fed wheat and pellets, together with green food such as lettuce, duckweed and grass. In Australia they are considered easy to keep and suitable for beginners.
  • Well established in collections, breeding may be best with a pair (which may be in a mixed collection) rather than a colony, preferably with ducks which have been able to choose their own mates. They nest in long grass or under a bush, not necessarily near water, and may also use a ground-level nest box, hollow log, open fronted drum, or in vegetation at the base of a tree. These ducks usually lay late April to June (B29); usually not until at least mid-May (B31) (northern hemisphere) (mainly August to March, Australia) and may lay a replacement clutch if the eggs are removed or even if ducklings are removed some time through the rearing period.
  • Both artificial incubation and broodies may be used. Ducklings require much warmth initially and need to be encouraged to feed initially, e.g. by another duckling (see: Starve-out). Floating feed is preferred initially (ant cocoons and water fleas on duckweed have been suggested), but they will take food from a bowl by about one week old.
  • Parent-rearing may be easier; parents defend their ducklings vigorously but a covered enclosure will reduce losses from predation in the first two or three weeks.
  • These ducks do not usually hybridise although they may occasionally hybridise with other Dendrocygna spp: hybrids have been recorded with Dendrocygna arborea - West Indian whistling-duck, Dendrocygna arcuata - Wandering whistling-duck, Dendrocygna autumnalis - Black-bellied whistling-duck and Dendrocygna bicolor - Fulvous whistling-duck.

(J23.13.w10, B29, B31, B139, D1)

Aviornis UK Ringing Scheme recommended average closed ring size: L 11.0mm (D8).

Management Techniques

Click image for main Aviculture Section

Return to top of page

External Appearance (Morphology)

Measurement & Weight

Length 16-18", 40-45cm (B1, B3)
Adult weight General 580-1400g (B1).
Male 600-930g, average 788g (B3).
Female 580-1400g average 792g (B3).
Newly-hatched weight --
Growth rate --

Return to top of page


Adult Bill Male Pink heavily speckled with black.
Variations (If present) --
Eyes (Iris) Male Yellow/orange.
Variations(If present) --
Juvenile Bill Pink speckled with black
Eyes (Iris) Yellow/orange.

Return to top of page


Adult Male Pink
Variations (If present) --
Juvenile Pink

Return to top of page


Adult Male Head and neck sandy-cinnamon, with pale greyish throat.

Breast cinnamon with dark bars on sides.

Flanks cranial (forward) feathers cinnamon with dark bars. Conspicuous elongated straw-coloured hind flank feathers with black edging, pointing upwards.

Abdomen, ventral area and undertail coverts cream-white.

Upperparts medium greyish olive-brown. Uppertail coverts dark-mottled buff.

Wings dark greyish olive-brown.

Variations (If present) --
Juvenile Paler; barring on sides narrower & less distinct.

Return to top of page

Newly-hatched Characteristics

General: Upperparts dark brown with two long pale bands on back. Underparts creamy yellow. Face streaked - pale with two dark band, one just below eye, the other lower down.
Bill: Blackish; tip and edge pink-brown
Feet: Olive-grey.

Return to top of page


Reproductive Season

Time of year Start of the rainy season.
No. of Clutches --

Return to top of page

Nest placement and structure

On the ground, hidden in long grass or bushes, usually near water but sometimes even 800m (half a mile) distant. A simple scrape lined with soft grasses but no down.

Return to top of page

Egg clutches

No. of Eggs Average 10 (B8).
Range 8-11 (B1); 8-14 (B8).
Egg Description White. Length: 48 x 37cm; weight: 40g.

Return to top of page


28-30 days (B1, B8).

Return to top of page



Return to top of page


56-65 days (B8).

Return to top of page

Sexual Maturity

Males --
Females --

Return to top of page


Feeding Behaviour

Adults Mainly grazing on land.
Newly-hatched --

Return to top of page

Parental Behaviour

Nest-building --
Incubation Both sexes incubate.
Newly-hatched Both sexes protect the ducklings and even carry them on their backs; males may play a larger role in rearing than females.


Return to top of page

Social Behaviour

Intra-specific Extremely gregarious. Males may fight intensely at the start of the breeding season.
Inter-specific Stray ducklings sometimes "adopted" by Dendrocygna arcuata - Wandering whistling-duck ducklings.

Return to top of page

Sexual Behaviour

Pair bonds are strong and probably permanent.

Return to top of page

Predation in Wild


Return to top of page

Activity Patterns

Fly in small parties from roosts to feeding areas up to 20 miles away.
Circadian Mainly nocturnal.

Return to top of page

Natural Diet


Basically vegetarian. Grasses, herbs, sedges, seeds, grain.

Return to top of page



Return to top of page

Range and Habitat

Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

Normal Northern and Eastern Australia. Local movements depending on water availability, moving to coast and large lagoons in the dry season.
Occasional and Accidental

Vagrant to Tasmania, New Guinea and New Zealand.



Return to top of page


Grasslands: meadows and plains. Also the edges of lagoons, pools and swamps, particularly in the dry season.

Return to top of page


Intraspecific variation


Return to top of page

Conservation Status

Wild Population -

Not threatened; widespread throughout their range, stable with a population of more than 30,000.

CITES listing --
Red-data book listing --
Threats --

Return to top of page

Captive Populations

Well established.

Return to top of page



Return to top of page