White Faced Whistling Duck

African Savanna

Location in Zoo

African Savanna
1-2 pounds
1-2 pounds

2 years
2 years

Geographic Range

Found in tropical parts of Central and South America and Africa. In the Americas, it ranges from Costa Rica south to central Peru, Bolivia and northern Argentina and east to Venezuela, Guyana and Surinam north of the Orinoco. It is also an occasional visitor to some West Indian islands. In Africa, it occurs south of the Sahara from Senegal to Ethiopia, southwards to South Africa, Madagascar and the Comoros Islands.

Scientific Information

Scientific Name:
Dendrocygna viduata

Lifestyle and Lifespan

Activity Time Frame:
Sexual Dimorphism:
27-32 days
Lifespan in the Wild:
10-12 years
Lifespan in Captivity:
10-12 years


Least Concerned


The white-faced whistling-duck is a long-legged duck with a white face and neck patch. The rest of the head and neck is black, along with the wings, rear, and tail. Their breast is a chestnut brown. The sides of the body are lightly barred black and white, and the bill and legs are a slate grey. The male and female white-faced whistling-duck are similar in appearance, although the female is slightly larger than the male. Juveniles of this species have a grey face, throat, and underparts, and the brown color on the breast is less vibrant than adults.

Species Specifics

This species is easily distinguished by its white head, and whistling noises.

Physical Characteristics

Like most ducks, White Faced Whistling Ducks have webbed feet to aid in swimming.



Freshwater wetlands, lakes, marshes, lagoons, and occasionally brackish water



Grass, seeds, aquatic plants and aquatic invertebrates

Ecological Web

Whistling ducks serve as an important control for aquatic invertebrate populations. They also serves as a good food source for many predators.

Activity and Behavior

Activity Pattern

White Faced Whistling Ducks spend most of their day standing alert in flocks around water. At night, these birds fly to foraging areas to feed. Whistling ducks also migrate throughout the year in reaction to seasonal flooding or changes in food or water availability.


In many other duck species, males have colorful plumage that they use to attract mates. However, these ducks do not. Because they do not have flashy feathers to attract a new mate every year, the White-Faced Whistling Duck males invest more time and energy into keeping the mate they have. Mating Pairs of this species tend to stay monogamous for several breeding seasons, and share parenting roles. They keep their bond strong in the non-breeding season by preening each others' feathers.

Social Behavior

In the non-breeding season, these birds tend to forage in large flocks, reaching up to several thousand individuals.

Reproductive Behavior

The breeding season begins at the start of the local rainy season. These ducks may nest in solitary pairs, small groups, or loose colonies. Mating pairs will usually stay together for multiple breeding seasons, and will preen each other’s feathers as a way of bonding. Courtship displays consist of both sexes dipping their bills into the water, followed by the male rubbing the sides of his head on backside. After mating has occurred, the pair will take part in a step-dance, in which the couple wades side by side in the water with their wings outstretched. They typically build their nests on the ground among tall grasses or in hollow trees.


They lay up to 6-12 white eggs per clutch, and both parents take turns incubating eggs and raising ducklings. Ducklings fledge after 8 weeks. Parents can have up to 4 clutches per year. After the breeding season, adult birds undergo a flightless moult period that lasts 18-25 days.



Currently listed as Least Concern by IUCN due to their large population numbers and their large home range.


Current Threats

Our Role

Exhibit and educate

How You Can Help

Fascinating Facts

As their name suggests, these ducks make a whistling sound as a form of communication.

“Dendrocygna viduata .” Dendrocygna viduata (White-Faced Duck, White-Faced Whistling-Duck, White-Faced Whistling Duck, White-Faced Whistling-Duck), The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, www.iucnredlist.org/details/22679763/0. Accessed 18 Sept. 2017.

“White-Faced whistling duck, Dendrocygna viduata.” Dallas World Aquarium, www.dwazoo.com/animal/white-faced-whistling-duck/. Accessed 18 Sept. 2017

“White-Faced whistling-Duck photo.” Arkive, www.arkive.org/white-faced-whistling-duck/dendrocygna-viduata/image-G94932.html. Accessed 18 Sept. 2017

Ries, Jamie. “White-Faced Whistling-Duck.” ASAG Species Fact Sheet, Avian Scientific Advisory Group, 1 Jan. 2015, aviansag.org/Fact_Sheets/Anseriformes/White-faced_whistling_duck.pdf. Accessed 18 Sept. 2017.

Grue, Mike. “They Whistle, But Are They Ducks?” San Diego Zoo Blog, San Diego Zoo, 5 Sept. 2012, blogs.sandiegozoo.org/2012/08/24/they-whistle-but-are-they-ducks/. Accessed 18 Sept. 2017.