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News Story
Updated: 06/19/2014 08:00:03AM

Whistling ducks colonizing south Florida

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PHOTO PROVIDED BY DENISE WHEELER

Black bellied whistling ducks are frequently seen near shallow water and will wade to forage on submerged vegetation. They also forage in grain fields, and eat a wide variety of plant material, and also consume arthropods and aquatic invertebrates.

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PHOTO PROVIDED BY BILL SPIEGEL

Whistling ducks often congregate in large numbers in open areas near shallow water.

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PHOTO PROVIDED BY BILL SPIEGEL

Listen for their distinctive whistle-like call in early evening as they move to feeding locations. Watch for flocks flying slowly in shapeless formations. Their long necks, broad wings and trailing legs and whistling call make them easy to identify in flight.

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PHOTO PROVIDED BY BILL SPIEGEL

The black bellied whistling duck is distinctively marked with salmon orange beak and legs, dark belly with a chestnut breast and grayish face. There is a broad white wing stripe, which is also visible in flight.

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PHOTO PROVIDED BY BILL SPIEGEL

Females lay an average of 13 eggs. Both parents attend the nest. Ducklings leave the nest within two days of hatching, can feed themselves immediately, and stay with the parents for up to eight weeks.

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PHOTO PROVIDED BY DENISE WHEELER

Two species of whistling ducks are frequently seen in DeSoto County. The black bellied whistling duck and fulvous duck are often seen together.

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PHOTO PROVIDED BY BILL SPIEGEL

Black bellies seem to readily adopt human-altered habitats such as golf courses, city parks, and schoolyards. They are very unwary and soon become accustomed to people.

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PHOTO PROVIDED BY DENISE WHEELER

Fulvous whistling ducks aren’t as colorful as the black bellied. Fulvous refers to the buff or cinnamon color on the head, neck, chest and belly. They have dark beaks and feet, and do not have a white wing patch.

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Two species of whistling ducks native to North and South America are frequently seen in DeSoto County. Listen for their distinctive whistle-like call in early evening as they move to feeding locations. Watch for flocks flying in shapeless formations. Their long necks, broad wings and trailing legs and whistling call make them easy to identify in flight. The black bellied whistling duck is the most common. The fulvous duck is also seen in our area, and the two species are often seen together. These ducks are also sometimes called tree ducks because they roost and nest in trees.

These ducks don’t look like a typical duck. Scientists consider whistling ducks more closely related to geese and swans than to true ducks. They have long legs and a goose-like body shape. They are very agile on land, standing erect and walking without the waddle characteristic of other ducks. The black bellied whistling duck is distinctively marked with salmon orange beak and legs, dark belly with a chestnut breast and grayish face. There is a broad white wing stripe, which is also visible in flight. The immature are duller than the adults with a dark bill and mottled black belly. Fulvous whistling ducks aren’t as colorful. Fulvous refers to the buff or cinnamon color on the head, neck, chest and belly. They have dark beaks and feet, and do not have a white wing patch.

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