email a friend
printable version
Fulvous Whistling-duck Dendrocygna bicolor

This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: _the_WP15.xls.
AOU. 1998. Check-list of North American birds. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Dowsett, R. J.; Forbes-Watson, A. D. 1993. Checklist of birds of the Afrotropical and Malagasy regions. Tauraco Press, Li
SACC. 2006. A classification of the bird species of South America. Available at:
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.
Stotz, D. F.; Fitzpatrick, J. W.; Parker, T. A.; Moskovits, D. K. 1996. Neotropical birds: ecology and conservation. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 1,300,000-1,500,000 individuals.

Trend justification
The overall population trend is decreasing, although some populations have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2006), and in North America the trend is increasing (based on BBS/CBC data: Butcher and Niven 2007).

Behaviour This species makes irregular local movements within Africa, the periodic appearance of huge numbers in some areas suggesting that it is highly mobile and apt to undertake long-distance movements in search of suitable habitat (Scott and Rose 1996). Populations in Madagascar appear to be sedentary, but it is known to be locally migratory in East and West Africa, distributions in these areas varying highly between years according to the water regime (in Cameroon the presence of the species is related to flooding) (Scott and Rose 1996). The timing of the breeding season is largely determined by water availability (del Hoyo et al. 1992): populations north of the Zambezi River breed during months of low rainfall, while those in the south breed in the wet season (Scott and Rose 1996). This species breeds in single pairs or loose groups and remains in dispersed pairs or small groups whilst undergoing the post-breeding moult (Johnsgard 1978, Brown et al. 1982). During the non-breeding season congregations of 20-30, several hundreds or even thousands may occur in feeding areas (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Hockey et al. 2005). The species is active both diurnally and nocturnally (Johnsgard 1978, Brown et al. 1982), foraging mainly during the first two hours after dawn and last two hours before sunset (Hockey et al. 2005). Habitat This species inhabits shallow freshwater or brackish wetlands with tall grass (Johnsgard 1978, Brown et al. 1982). Such habitats include freshwater lakes, seasonal freshwater pools, slow-flowing streams, marshy areas, swamps in open flat terrain and flooded grasslands (Johnsgard 1978, Brown et al. 1982, Kear 2005a). It also very frequently occurs in areas of wet rice cultivation (Johnsgard 1978, Brown et al. 1982, Kear 2005a), and seeks the cover of densely vegetated wetlands while it is vulnerable and flightless during its moulting period (Kear 2005a). Diet The species is predominantly vegetarian, feeding on aquatic seeds and fruits, bulbs, leaf shoots, buds and the structural parts of aquatic plants such as grasses and rushes, although it does occasionally take small aquatic insects (Johnsgard 1978, Brown et al. 1982, Hockey et al. 2005). It is also shows a preference for cultivated rice grains (Hohman et al. 1996). Breeding site The nests of this species are predominantly mounds of plant material, often floating on water and well concealed amidst vegetation (Johnsgard 1978, Brown et al. 1982). In India however, the species is primarily tree-nesting, utilising hollow trees and even disused stick nests of large birds such as kites or crows (Madge and Burn 1988).

This species is persecuted through hunting in many rice growing areas (Johnsgard 1978, Brown et al. 1982) and there has been a marked decline in numbers due to shooting anf trapping at Lake Alaotra in Madagascar (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Scott and Rose 1996). The species is also often exposed to pesticides used on rice crops, is suceptible to lead poisoning, and suffers mortality through collision with powerlines (Johnsgard 1978, Brown et al. 1982). The damming of the Senegal river has markedly decreased the habitat quality in that area, which may be having a negative impact on the population in that area (Triplett and Yesou 2000). Wetland habitat degradation on the east coast of India due to siltation, proliferation of invasive freshwater plant species (such as water hyacinth Eichornia crassipes), increased aquaculture activities and eutrophication may threaten the small proportion of the species that utilises the area (Nayak 2006). The species is also susceptible to avian botulism, so may be threatened by future outbreaks of the disease (van Heerden 1974). Utilisation The species is hunted for local consumption and trade from Lake Chilwa, Malawi (Bhima 2006). It is also hunted and traded at traditional medicine markets in Nigeria (Nikolaus 2001).

Bhima, R. 2006. Subsistence use of waterbirds at Lake Chilwa, Malawi. In: Boere, G.; Galbraith, C., Stroud, D. (ed.), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 255-256. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.

Brown, L. H.; Urban, E. K.; Newman, K. 1982. The birds of Africa vol I. Academic Press, London.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Delany, S.; Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Hockey, P. A. R.; Dean, W. R. J.; Ryan, P. G. 2005. Roberts birds of southern Africa. Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town, South Africa.

Hohman, W. L.; Stark T. M.; Moore J. L. 1996. Food availability and feeding preferences of breeding fulvous whistling-ducks in Louisiana ricefields. Wilson Bulletin 108(1): 137-150.

Johnsgard, P. A. 1978. Ducks, geese and swans of the World. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London.

Kear, J. 2005. Ducks, geese and swans volume 1: general chapters; species accounts (Anhima to Salvadorina). Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K.

Madge, S.; Burn, H. 1988. Wildfowl. Christopher Helm, London.

Nayak, A . K. 2006. Status of migratory shorebirds at Bhitarkanika and Chilika wetlands on the est coast of India. In: Boere, G.; Galbraith, C., Stroud, D. (ed.), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 305-307. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.

Nikolaus, G. 2001. Bird exploitation for traditional medicine in Nigeria. Malimbus 23: 45-55.

Scott, D. A.; Rose, P. M. 1996. Atlas of Anatidae populations in Africa and western Eurasia. Wetlands International, Wageningen, Netherlands.

Triplett, P.; Yesou, P. 2000. Controlling the flood in the Senegal Delta: do waterfowl populations adapt to their new environment? Ostrich 71((1-2): 106-111.

van Heerden, J. 1974. Botulism in the Orange Free State goldfields. Ostrich 45(3): 182-184.

Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Malpas, L.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Dendrocygna bicolor. Downloaded from on 11/07/2014. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 11/07/2014.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Fulvous whistling duck (Dendrocygna bicolor) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Anatidae (Ducks, geese and swans)
Species name author (Vieillot, 1816)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 18,700,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Climate change species distributions