There are eight clearly defined whistling-ducks in the world today. I say clearly defined because, due to some anatomical and behavioral similarities, the African white-backed duck is considered a close relative.
For now, I’d like to introduce you to a species that is found in both our South American and African aviaries. The white-faced whistling duck can be easily recognized from other waterfowl species thanks to their (surprise!) white face, black nape and distinctive whistle-like calls. Only the fulvous whistling-ducks’ distribution can compete with the white-faces’, whose range includes most of South America, Africa and Madagascar. They inhabit open wetlands – not forests or wooded areas – and prefer to perch on flat land surfaces instead of trees.
White-faced whistling-ducks have stable numbers in the wild. In fact, they often gather in huge flocks of thousands of birds on the S.A. llanos. During the rainy season, the white-face tend to make their nests in the long grasses and reeds in marshlands, though they will occasionally use tree hollows or low forks. Parents are very protective of their young, often feigning injury to lead potential predators away from their offspring.
All whistling-ducks are basically built the same with slender, almost upright bodies and long, lanky legs. Although some species do comfortably perch in trees (hence the name "tree-duck,") others rarely do. But all the species, however, are very vocal and do have distinctive, high-pitched "whistle-like" calls. These melodic vocalizations have endeared them to aviculturists, and all eight species have been bred in captive collections.
On your next visit to the Park, be sure to stop in either the South American or African aviary and take a few minutes to find these personable birds!