Whistling ducks, otherwise known as tree ducks, are not really tree ducks at all. They do not perch a great deal and only rarely nest in tree holes. The name whistling duck is far more appropriate and descriptive, as all species in the tribe use a unique whistle, varying from high-pitched shrills to clear or squeaky whistles.
Most whistling ducks are tropical or semitropical in distribution. Probably the best species to start with is the Fulvous as they are much hardier than others, however, with shelter and a sheltered pond, the White-faced and Red-billed species will be quite happy. Another fairly hardy species is the Cuban, but it can be rather quarrelsome in a mixed collection.
Commonly kept in mixed collections, whistlers either upend or dive for food, but sometimes they graze. Wheat and layers pellet mix should be used to supplement their diet and breeder pellets are recommended in the breeding season. Water, preferably flowing is required, suitable to accommodate the size of the collection and with sloping sides to allow access and egress. The birds must be enclosed and protected from predators.
The pair bonds of whistling ducks are very strong so they usually spend most of their time together. In a collection they are prepared to use a variety of nest sites from ground cover to hollow logs and nest boxes. Both sexes take part in incubating their eggs and rearing youngsters. If left to rear their young they are best separated from others.
FULVOUS WHISTLING DUCK Dendrocygna bicolor
Fulvous Whistling Duck
Fulvous Whistling Duck are a popular choice for wildfowl collections being the hardiest of the whistling duck tribe. Although of duller plumage than some, the Fulvous Whistling Duck has a pleasing character easy to befriend.
They have a shrill double-noted whistle and are known to squeal when they take to the wing. It is a characteristic that has given them both the name of 'Mexican Squealer' and 'Whistling Teal'.
Fulvous Whistling Duck occupy a wide variety of habitats from shallow lakes and swamps to ricefields. They dive readily although not particularly gracefully and are often active at night.
They breed easily in wildfowl collections, usually ground nesting but sometimes in trees or hollows. Fulvous Whistling Ducks lay 8-16 eggs which both parents take turns to incubate for 24-26 days.
WHITE-FACED WHISTLING DUCK Dendrocygna viduata
White-faced Whistling Duck
White-faced Whistling Duck are possibly the most attractive of the whistling duck tribe. Their carriage is very upright and their black nape, white head and rich chestnut breast make a striking contrast.
White-faced Whistling Duck are very docile in nature but have a noisy high-pitched whistle. In the wild this is often heard when they night feed.
In their natural environment they occupy a wide range of habitats, often found in dense flocks. Their preference is for flood plains and large lagoons. Despite their alternative name 'White-faced Tree Duck' they rarely perch in trees.
White-faced Whistling Duck do not breed as prolifically in captivity as other members of the same tribe. Often nesting on the ground or in hollow trees, they lay 8-12 eggs and both parents share incubation for 28 days.