Sunday Duck o’ the Week

August 9, 2020 • 7:45 am

Evolutionist John Avise provides his weekly contribution to our knowledge of waterfowl: the Duck o’ The Week. The object is to guess the species of duck from the photos. (All the ducks are found in North America.) Then click below the fold to see the identification, some fun duck facts, and a range map.

Here we go:

Click “read more” for the ID, facts, and a range map:

ID: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (Dendrocgyna autumnalis)

This species is widely distributed in Central and South America but its range also extends into the extreme southern United States where it can be found in parts of Texas, Louisiana, Arizona, and Florida.  Whistling ducks are rather goose-like birds named for the whistle calls they continually issue, especially in flight.  Typically seen in large flocks when they graze in open pastures or tip-up in shallow ponds, these birds have rather long legs and a noticeably upright stance for a duck. Formerly called “tree ducks”, Whistling ducks nest in tree hollows and often perch on large tree limbs.  This species has no obvious sexual dimorphism.

A range map from the Cornell bird site:

10 thoughts on “Sunday Duck o’ the Week

  1. I am jealous of all of the different ducks that John Avise gets to see! I’ve seen only 3 or 4 different species of duck this past season in western Pennsylvania (out of ~125 total bird species seen since Jan. 1).

    1. The range maps I consulted agree with the one in the post, although they may also be out of date. The map in the second edition of the Sibley guide shows large areas in grey in the mid-west and up the East coast where they are rare but regular. This is definitely a species that tends to wander. We have several records in Eastern/Central Canada. Its range has certainly expanded since the time of my beloved Golden Guide (the bird guide I grew up with), in which they are shown as regularly occurring only in extreme southern Texas.

  2. More wonderful images from our duck-photo contributor. Does he really have photos of this quality of every North American duck species? I’m waiting with bated breath for the posts on Spectacled Eider and Steller’s Eider, two ducks with very restricted and remote ranges (think Alaska).

    Given the recent post on the politically-correct renaming of McCown’s Longspur, I half expected today’s duck to be the Oldsquaw (Clangula hyemalis), now renamed Long-tailed Duck in order not to risk offending indigenous people. Contrary to the longspur name, an alternate name was readily available for the duck, though, since Long-tailed Duck is what the species is known by in the UK. I do find the name Long-tailed Duck a bit dull.

    I disagree with Bruce Lyon a bit when he says that birders rapidly adapt to new names. I still sometimes forget and call them oldsquaws! And apparently older birders were up in arms for years when the common gallinule was renamed common moorhen to be consistent with the name in England. Eventually the name reverted to “gallinule” when it was decided the two were not in fact the same species, probably just as North Americans were finally getting used to “moorhen”.

  3. Tara Tanaka has whistling ducks that compete with her wood ducks for the nesting box, in FL.
    These are black bellied whistling ducks:

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