Bird GuideDucks and GeeseFulvous Whistling-Duck
Fulvous Whistling-Duck
Dendrocygna bicolor

At a Glance

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.
Duck-like Birds, Ducks and Geese
Low Concern
Coasts and Shorelines, Fields, Meadows, and Grasslands, Freshwater Wetlands, Lakes, Ponds, and Rivers
California, Eastern Canada, Florida, Mid Atlantic, Plains, Southeast, Southwest, Texas
Direct Flight, Erratic

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

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.


18-21" (46-53 cm). Butterscotch color with gray bill, long neck, white stripe on flanks. Compare to young Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, also to female Northern Pintail. In flight, black underwings and white crescent above tail contrast with buff body.
About the size of a Crow, About the size of a Mallard or Herring Gull
Black, Orange, Tan, White
Wing Shape
Fingered, Rounded
Tail Shape
Rounded, Short

Songs and Calls

A hoarse whistle, ka-wheee.
Call Pattern
Call Type
Scream, Whistle


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.



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.


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

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.).


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.

Climate Vulnerability

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.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Fulvous Whistling-Duck. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

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.