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A photo of a Spotted Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna guttata)
Spotted Whistling Duck

Spotted Whistling Duck

Dendrocygna guttata

The Spotted Whistling Duck, scientifically known as Dendrocygna guttata, is a charming member of the Anatidae family. This species, also known as the "spotted tree duck," is one of the smaller members of its genus, standing at a height of 43–50 cm. Males typically weigh between 590g to 650g, while females are slightly heavier, ranging from 610g to 860g. The duck's namesake comes from the distinctive white spots adorning its flanks and breast. A grey hue graces the sides of the neck, face, and eyebrows, while a darker shade, resembling a cape with a thick collar, extends from the crown nape to the hindneck and eyepatch. The underbelly is a lighter brown, sometimes spotted, contrasting with the darker wings and collar. In flight, a white bar on the upper tail coverts becomes visible, aiding in identification. The legs are a dull pink, leading to black webbed feet with sharp nails, and the bill is dark with hints of red and a small white mark on the lower mandible.

Identification Tips

When observing the Spotted Whistling Duck, look for its upright posture, as if standing tall off the ground, with wings held tightly against the body. In flight, the head is positioned downwards, giving the bird a hunched appearance, while the tail appears long and pointed. Juveniles can be identified by white streaks on their flanks instead of spots and have a generally duller coloration.

Habitat

This species thrives in humid, low-altitude environments, favoring small ponds and marshes surrounded by trees. They are known to nest in tree hollows within these wooded wetlands.

Distribution

The Spotted Whistling Duck is found across the Philippines, Australia, New Guinea, and several Indonesian islands. Notably, they inhabit the southern Philippines and the Eastern Lesser Sundas islands extending to New Guinea, as well as the Weipa and Iron ranges of Australia.

Behaviour

These ducks are sociable, often found in groups with their own kind or mingling with D. arcata. They are less vocal compared to other genus members and are known to perch on tree branches in groups. Adults are protective of juveniles, maintaining a safe distance from potential threats while shepherding the younger birds.

Breeding

The Spotted Whistling Duck forms strong pair bonds, with both sexes participating in nest building and incubation. Breeding season commences in September, with nests active until April. Clutches typically contain 10-11 eggs, incubated for 18–31 days. Chicks weigh 17.5g at hatching and are observed to fly at 45–50 days old in the wild.

Diet and Feeding

Their diet consists of grass seeds, aquatic invertebrates, aquatic plants, and small fish. They feed by dabbling at the water's surface and diving, often at night. The ducks filter water through their bills and consume food underwater, resurfacing with a distinctive bounce.

Conservation status

The Spotted Whistling Duck is classified as Least Concern, with a stable population estimated between 10,000 to 25,000 individuals. However, they are particularly susceptible to avian tuberculosis, which can be fatal and has been observed to have a high mortality rate in captivity.

Interactions with Humans

While not commonly hunted, the Spotted Whistling Duck is sometimes found in captivity. Their interactions with humans are minimal, and they are not a primary target for waterfowl hunters.

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