West Indian Whistling Duck

West Indian Whistling Duck
West Indian Whistling Duck
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Anseriformes
Family: Anatidae
Subfamily: Dendrocygninae
Genus: Dendrocygna
Species: D. arborea
Binomial name
Dendrocygna arborea
(Linnaeus, 1758)

The West Indian Whistling Duck, Dendrocygna arborea, is a whistling duck which breeds in the Caribbean. Alternative names are Black-billed Whistling Duck and Cuban Whistling Duck.

The West Indian Whistling Duck is widely scattered throughout the West Indies including a large breeding population in the Bahamas, and smaller numbers in Cuba, the Cayman Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, and Jamaica. It is largely sedentary, apart from local movements which can be 100 km or more. Nests have been reported in tree cavities, on branches, in clumps of bromeliads, and on the ground under thatch palms and other dense bushes. The usual clutch size is 10-16 eggs. It habitually perches in trees, which gives rise to its specific name.

The birds are mostly nocturnal and secretive, inhabiting wooded swamps and mangroves, where this duck roosts and feeds on plant food including the fruit of the Royal Palm.

The West Indian Whistling Duck is the largest (48-58 cm) and darkest of its genus. It has a long black bill, long head and longish legs. It has a pale foreneck and light brown face. The crown, back, breast and wings are dark brown to black, and the rest of the underparts are white with heavy black markings.

All plumages are similar, except that juveniles are duller and have a less contrasted belly pattern.



The West Indian Whistling Duck has suffered extensive hunting for its eggs and for sport. Wetlands are a very limited habitat in the Caribbean, with continuing conversion for development and agriculture. More than 50% of remaining wetlands are seriously degraded by the cutting of mangroves and swamp-forest, pollution (especially over-use of pesticides1) and natural catastrophes such as droughts and hurricanes. Predation is inadequately documented but may be a factor.

Current conservation measures

CITES Appendix II. CMS Appendix II. It is legally protected throughout much of its range, but law enforcement is inadequate. N. L. Staus (1997) The West Indian Whistling Duck Working Group initiated a conservation programme in 1997. L. G. Sorenson (1997) There are several protected areas in the region but, in general, suitable habitat, especially wetlands, is under-represented. N. L. Staus (1997) Ducks are predated on Antigua by the mongoose introduced to control the cane rats which was largely unsuccessful as the rats live in trees

Proposed conservation measures

Conduct extensive surveys to assess numbers and distribution; assist local authorities in establishing a long-term monitoring programme; conserve key sites; enforce legal protection; initiate public education and awareness programmes. Staus (1997)


A group of West Indian whistling ducks
West Indian Whistling Ducks
A group of West Indian whistling ducks and a Jacana
West Indian whistling ducks with Jacana


  • BirdLife International (2006). Dendrocygna arborea. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 11 May 2006. Database entry includes a range map and justification for why this species is vulnerable
  • Wildfowl by Madge and Burn, ISBN 0-7470-2201-1
  • Staus, N.L. 1998. Behavior and natural history of the West Indian Whistling Duck on Long Island, Bahamas. Wildfowl 49: 194-206.

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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