Black bellied Whistling duck

Roodbek fluiteend

Black bellied Whistling duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis autumnalis)

The Black bellied Whistling duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis autumnalis) is a whistling duck from the family of water birds that includes ducks, geese, and swans (Anatidae).

Species name

Dutch name:
Roodbek fluiteend
English name:
Black bellied Whistling duck
German name:
Rotschnabel Pfeifgans
French name:
Scientific name:
Dendrocygna autumnalis autumnalis

Scientific classification




Head and upper neck are grey. Crown is dark brown. We can see a dark vertical hind neck stripe. Lower neck and chest are tawny-brown. Upperparts are tawny-brown to brown-cinnamon(D.a. discolor). (Breast and lower neck more grey brown and back more grey brown). Turning black on rump and uppertail coverts. Underparts are paler. It has black belly and flanks. Undertail coverts are mottled black and white. Upper wings show a broad white stripe, conspicuous in flight. When in flight, and the large white wing patch Flight feathers are black. Underwings are blackish. Bill is bright pink-red, often yellowish at base. Eyes are dark brown, with conspicuous white eye ring. Legs and webbed feet are bright pinkish-red. 

Identical to male. Duller and slightly smaller best if paired to tell the differences.

Duller and less well-patterned then adults, with gray -white belly marked with ill-defined darker cross barring; sooty-brown belly and flanks. 
White of wing -converts pale gray- white and so less obvious in flight. Bill legs, feet mainly grey, tinged with pink or yellow. It reaches its adult plumage at 8 months of age. Very young birds have very paler belly, with indistinct transversal bars.


The black-bellied whistling duck is quite unique among ducks in their strong monogamous pair-bond. 

Standard Measurements

Body Length (cm):
The male (drake) of the Black bellied Whistling duck measures approximately 47-57 centimeters. The female measures approximately 46-55 centimeters.
Body Weight (grams):
The male will weight about 815-995 gram. The female will weight about 815-995 gram.
The weight is notoriously variable and can only be used as indication!

There are two subspecies:

  • Northern black-bellied whistling duck, D. a. fulgens – Larger, with a brown breast and upper back.
  • Southern black-bellied whistling duck, D. a. autumnalis – Smaller, with gray breast and upper back.

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.

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. If the clutch is lost, it is possible that the pair may try again.

The female Black bellied Whistling duck usually lays from 8-15 creamy white and not shiny eggs and incubates them for 26-31 days.

Bird banding:
Recommended leg band size for the Black bellied Whistling duck is 12 mm.
The leg band can only be applied on a young whistling duck at around 12-14 days old.

It doesn't matter what leg that you band, but it is good to have a consistent system.
Suggested: Left leg = Female, Right leg = Male
Preferred food:
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Photos of the Black bellied Whistling duck

Videos of the Black bellied Whistling duck