White-faced Whistling Duck

ORDER: Anseriformes

FAMILY: Anatidae

GENUS: Dendrocygna

SPECIES: viduata

Adult male has front half of head and throat white; rest of head and neck black with a white patch on underside of neck; lower neck and wing shoulders chestnut; flanks barred black on white; rest of underparts, underside of wings, rump and tail black; back and scapulars olive brown edged with golden buff, eye brown, bill black, feet, toes and webs blue with black markings. The female is similar but has front of head and neck spot tinged with rust color.

Widespread in Africa from Gambia and Ethiopia in the north to Natal and Madagascar. Also in the West Indies and South America. They occupy a wide range of habitats: fresh water lakes, dams, reservoirs, marshes, swamps, pans on flood plains, sewage farms.

Omnivorous. Invertebrates such as aquatic insects, mollusks and crustaceans as well as aquatic plants, seeds and rice. Commonly obtain food by diving.

A highly social species with flocks often numbering in the hundreds. Mutual preening is highly developed, and is important for permanent pair bonding. Foraging is primarily at night, so there is much nocturnal flying. There is a good deal of nomadic movement of the birds. They are often found in association with the fulvous whistling duck. Copulation occurs in the water. The female lays six to twelve eggs in a shallow depression on dry ground. Both sexes brood for 26 to 28 days. The ducklings are kept hidden in the reeds. They fledge in about two months.

Although it has the long neck and long legs of other tree ducks, it does not spend much time perched in trees but prefers sand banks. It behaves more like a goose or swan than a typical duck.

It vocalizes frequently with distinctive high-pitched, multi-syllabic whistles which sound very un-ducklike. Male and female calls differ slightly and may be a bonding mechanism. Its attractive appearance makes it a popular bird in waterfowl collections.

The White-faced Whistling Ducks can be found in the African Savanna aviary near the lions.

Not endangered but on Appendix III of CITES (listed as threatened by a specific country). Listed as Least Concern by the IUCN.


  1. Johnsgard, Paul A. 1978. Ducks, Geese, and Swans of the World , University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London.
  2. Mackworth-Praed and C.H.B. Grant. 1962. Birds of the Southern Third of Africa, Longmans, London.
  3. Todd, Frank S. 1979. Waterfowl: Ducks, Geese & Swans of the World. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York and London.