Conservation status In recent decades has declined in the southwest, while numbers have fluctuated in the southeast. In the latter area, changes in rice farming may affect it. Impact of this species on rice growing is controversial: may damage crops, or may feed mainly on seeds of weeds growing in rice fields.
Family Ducks and Geese
Habitat Fresh marshes (mostly coastal), irrigated land. At most seasons, favors shallow freshwater or brackish marshes in flat open country of coastal plain; also flooded rice fields, other agricultural fields, ponds, lakes. Migrants or strays may appear at any type of water, but most likely at marshy shallows.
A lanky bird of shallow wetlands, widespread in the tropics of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Known for its tendency to wander hundreds of miles in roving flocks. Unlike Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, this species seldom perches in trees.

Feeding Behavior

When feeding in water, may dabble at surface, or tip up with tail up and head and forepart of body submerged. Also sometimes dives to take food underwater. Does much of its foraging in damp fields (especially in rice fields in the U.S.).


12-14, sometimes 6-16. Whitish, becoming nest-stained. Females may lay eggs in each others' nests (or nests of other species); such "dump nests" can contain 60+ eggs. Incubation by both sexes, 24-26 days. May leave eggs unattended for hours on warm days until close to hatching time. Young: can swim and dive well. Tended by both parents, but find their own food. Young fledge at about 2 months.


can swim and dive well. Tended by both parents, but find their own food. Young fledge at about 2 months.


Mostly seeds. Diet apparently more than 95% plant material, mainly seeds of aquatic plants and grasses, including paspalum, wild millet, sedge, smartweed, and many others. Also eats a few aquatic insects.


May pair for life. In courtship, 2 (or more) may fly in large circles with much twisting and turning. Mated pairs may rear up on water with neck in tight S-curve and tread water side by side. Nest site is on ground next to water or in dense marsh just above water. Nest (built by female only?) woven of grass, sedges, cattails, sometimes with canopy of same materials above. Unlike most waterfowl, no down added to nest.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

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Some regular migration of Gulf Coast birds to southern Mexico for winter; regular migration overshadowed by widespread wandering. Flocks have strayed far north, with records from at least 6 Canadian provinces. These wanderings can lead to extensions of breeding range. Beginning around 1950, species invaded eastward along Gulf Coast from Texas; since 1960, has become a common nesting bird in Florida. A flock appeared in Hawaii in early 1980s and began nesting in 1984.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon

See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.

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Songs and Calls

A hoarse whistle, ka-wheee.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Fulvous Whistling-Duck

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.

Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.

Climate Threats Near You

Climate threats facing the Fulvous Whistling-Duck

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.