White-faced whistling duck

Taking a swim: White-faced whistling duck parents and offspring bred at the Wildfowl Trust.

THE white-faced whistling tree duck became locally extirpated in Trinidad in the 1930s. Several years ago the Pointe-a-Pierre Wildfowl Trust started the breeding of this beautiful and useful species of wild duck as well as other endangered waterfowl and wetland birds.

These lovely little ducks are nocturnal and, though very quiet during the day, roosting in trees, they may become very active in the early evening; feeding, mating and breeding at this time. They are helpful to farmers, as these gentle birds feed on the seeds of wild grasses, beetles and aquatic larvae.

The Wildfowl Trust, dedicated to the protection, breeding and study of Trinidad and Tobago’s wetland birds, as well as to environmental education and public awareness, received a number of these birds, “our birds”, from abroad and have bred and released into the wild in Trinidad a number of these little ducks. They usually breed at one year of age, between April and late September and have strong pair bonds. Both parents rear their young and pair bonds seem permanent.

It cannot be reiterated too often that the education and awareness of the public, particularly of our children, is vitally important, for as one schoolchild questioned, “Why do you bother to put them back when people are only going to kill them again?”

“Good question!” Answer: “First, so that hopefully some will escape and ensure the survival of the species so that when you grow up there will be some left for you to know about and protect. Secondly, that is one of the reasons for this discussion so that your generation will know better and enforce our laws”.

Education, understanding, awareness, awakening of the youth, our people of tomorrow, future hunters and corporate executives, who will also be environmentalists and well-adjusted human beings with a sense of balance, recognising that mankind with the need for social progress and industry also recognises the serious responsibilities concerning his natural surroundings and that our own survival depends on what we do now.


The white-faced whistling duck features a long grey bill, a long head, and longish legs. It has a black neck and head, and distinctive white face that gives them their name, though the amount of white colour visible has regional variations among the species. For example, the white-faced whistling ducks with more black colouration are commonly found in western Africa where rainfall supersedes the dry season. The back and wings are dark brown to black, and the underparts are black with a fine white barring on the flanks. The neck is chestnut. Males and females have similar plumage. Juveniles are similar in colour to adults, but have a much less contrasted head pattern.

Range and habitat

The white-faced whistling duck has a peculiar disjunctive distribution, occurring in Africa and South America. It has been suggested that they may have been transported to new locations worldwide by humans. The habitat is still freshwater lakes or reservoirs, with plentiful vegetation, where this duck feeds on seeds and other plant food.

The white-faced whistling duck has escaped or been deliberately released into Florida, USA, but there is no evidence that the population is breeding and may only persist due to continuing releases or escapes.


This is an abundant species. It is largely resident, apart from local movements which can be 100 kilometres or more.


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