Monday 5 May 2008

Whistling ducks: we haz both kinds

Two species of whistling ducks occur in Australia — the wandering whistling duck (Dendrocygna arcuata) of the tropics and the plumed whistling duck (D. eytoni), which has a wider range.

Wandering whistling ducks have dark backs, small wing plumes and black bills and legs. Photographed at Centenary Lakes, Cairns

Plumed whistling ducks have lighter coloured backs, extravagant wing plumes and pinkish bills and pale legs. (The pinkish colour on the bill isn't always easy to see.) Photographed at Hasties Swamp near Atherton

Both species form dense and noisy flocks that camp along swamp edges. Plumed WDs leave the swamps to feed at night on grasses and sedges, whereas wandering WDs tend to stay where they are. Both species are very vocal. You hear flocks before you see them. The call is a trilling whistle — very pleasant at the side of a swamp at midday but probably not so much fun if a couple of hundred of them are feeding on your lawn at 2 a.m.

(More plumed WDs to come.)