Wandering Whistling-Duck, Dendrocygna arcuata Click to enlarge image
Wandering Whistling-Duck, Dendrocygna arcuata Image: Sean Daniels

Fast Facts

  • IUCN Conservation Status
  • Classification
  • Size Range
    55 cm to 60 cm

Wandering Whistling-Ducks are gregarious when not breeding, and form large flocks of up to thousands of individuals. They often flock with Plumed Whistling-Ducks.

What do Wandering Whistling-Ducks look like?


The Wandering Whistling-Duck is a large duck with rich red-brown plumage overall, with a paler face, front of neck and upper breast. There is a dark stripe on the crown of head, nape and back of neck. The bill and legs are dark. There are elongated flank plumes, which are off-white with chestnut edges. In flight, the dark underwings, cinnamon and chestnut underbody, white undertail and trailing dark legs are seen. This species is also known as the Whistling Tree-Duck, Water Whistling-Duck and the Red Whistler.

Where do Wandering Whistling-Ducks live?


The Wandering Whistling-Duck prefers deep vegetated lagoons and swamps, flooded grasslands, sewerage farms, grain stubbles, pastures, irrigated lands and ricefields. It prefers deeper waters where aquatic plants and insects are plentiful.


The Wandering Whistling-Duck is found in northern and eastern Australia, from the Kimberley region, across the north of Australia, to south-eastern New South Wales. It is vagrant to the south-east and the south-west of the country. This species is also distributed through Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and the Pacific Islands.

What do Wandering Whistling-Ducks eat and how do they communicate?

Feeding and diet

The Wandering Whistling-Duck feeds almost entirely on aquatic vegetation and seeds, but also on young grass, the bulbs of rushes and other herbage, insects and other small aquatic animals. Wandering Whistling-Ducks forage in tight flocks, with the birds in front diving, and those behind flying over them.


Shrill twittering, whistling, especially noisy with almost incessant whistling when flocks are airborne.

What are Wandering Whistling-Ducks breeding behaviours?

Breeding Behaviour/s

The Wandering Whistling-Duck breeds in the northern Wet Season. The nest is a scrape in the ground out of reach of rising floodwaters, and is hidden in tall grass or shrubbery and lined with grass. Wandering Whistling-Ducks are monogamous, and pair-bonds are most likely life-long. Not much is known about the incubation of the eggs and brooding of the young.

Breeding Season: January to April.


The most obvious movement is the dispersal of flocks when there is rain from dry season refuges beside permanent water to ephemeral inland breeding swamps and coastal sites.

Economic/social impacts

Wandering Whistling-Ducks are often found in grain-growing areas where there are permanent artificial waterbodies. Their preferred floodplain systems may potentially be threatened by future agricultural, pastoral or urban development.