A beautiful and popular waterfowl commonly kept in zoos and private collections.
The White-faced Whistling Duck, (Dendrocygna viduata), is a whistling duck which breeds in sub-Saharan Africa and much of South America. These ducks have dark plumage contrasting with its white head, making it an easy duck to identify. The bird is slender with long legs and neck and displays an erect stance when on land. Both sexes look similar; the juveniles are duller in color, with grayish heads. Adults weigh about 1.5 lbs. In the wild they occupy a wide range of habitats including: fresh water lakes, dams, reservoirs, marshes, and swamps with still water and plentiful vegetation where they feed on plant matter, seeds, grain, as well as aquatic insects, mollusks and crustaceans. Feeding mostly occurs at night so nocturnal flights are routine. White-faces are highly social and live in flocks numbering in the hundreds and are often seen mingling with fulvous whistling ducks. Birds are often seen engaged in mutual preening which is important for permanent pair bonding. As indicated by its name this duck has a distinctive call described as a clear three-note whistle "tsri-tsri-trseeo". The call of an anxious or upset adult is a single "whee". Although it has the long neck and legs of its tree duck brethren, it does not spend much time perched in trees but prefers instead to lounge, relaxed on one foot on the sandy banks of the shore. Not endangered but on Appendix III of CITES (listed as threatened by a specific country). Breeding season varies according to location, both in the wild and in captive collections. The nest is usually located on the ground in tall grass, scraped in the dirt, but sometimes may be in reed beds on the shoreline and even occasionally in the fork of a low waterside tree, although this is not at all common in aviary birds. Clutch size is usually 9-12 smooth, creamy-white eggs, which are incubated for 28-30 days. Parents have a strong pair bond and both help care for the young, including feeding, brooding, and protecting them. In the aviary these ducks do well with dense plantings and extensive amounts of water that allows swimming, so at least several feet deep. They are extremely gregarious outside of their breeding season and should be kept in large aviaries, especially if housed with smaller species as this large duck can sometimes be pushy and bully the smaller specimens in a mixed collection. Larger areas and dense cover allow birds to be "out of sight and out of mind". A shelter should be provided for severe weather and on cold nights with a deep bed of straw to stand and sleep on as they are susceptible to frostbite in cold weather. They can be kept fully-flighted in covered aviaries but should be pinioned otherwise as they are strong fliers and like to wander. Elevated nest boxes can be provided as well as ground boxes. Most hens will build their own nest on the ground concealed in thick grasses. Breeding season in the US usually occurs from late April - June. Hybridization can occur between other whistling duck species although this is not common when pairs are well bonded and there are no extra males. Hybridization has also been reported with the Rosy-billed Pochard. When feeding these ducks a pelleted or crumbled waterfowl diet should be available for them but grain and green stuff is readily appreciated as a treat. This duck is considered hardy and easy to keep in an aviary setting so beginners can keep this handsome duck. Remember plentiful, clean water in addition to plantings and perches should be provided in order to maintain happy, healthy ducks. And if you love the look of these dashing birds be sure to give them a try.