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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck -- Dendrocygna autumnalis

RANGE: Resident in southern Arizona, central and southeastern Texas, and south into South America.

STATUS: Rather common within its breeding range, but only a straggler outside.

HABITAT: Prefers open woodlands, groves or thicket borders of ebony, mesquite, retama, huisache, and cacti near banks and shallows of rivers, ponds, or marshes. In semiarid southern Texas, it has adapted to some constructed "water habitats" such as small reservoirs and stock tanks. May loaf on shores of small ponds and frequently perches in trees; usually does not alight or swim on deep water.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Shallow waters or wetlands, and natural cavities in trees or depressions in ground near water for nesting.

NEST: Nests in cavities of elms, willows, live oaks, ebony, mesquite, hackberry, and other trees; also in nest boxes and on the ground. Nest trees may be standing in or located up to 3,000 feet from water, while ground nests are usually in grazed brush pastures, well hidden under low shrubs, and usually near water. Uses natural cavities with entrance holes ranging from 4 by 4.75 inches to 7 by 12.5 inches, and located about 9 feet above ground or water.

FOOD: Often feeds at night by grazing in stockyards, pastures, or fields, or by tipping or standing in shallow water. Has a primarily vegetarian diet that includes many cultivated plants, stock foods, and native plants. Consumes about 8 percent animal material, including insects, mollusks, and snails.

REFERENCES: Baldwin et al. 1964; Bellrose 1976; Bolen 1967a, 1967b; Bolen and Forsyth 1967; Johnsgard 1975b; Meanley and Meanley 1958; Terres 1980.

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