West Indian whistling-duck (Dendrocygna arborea)

West Indian whistling-ducks
Loading more images and videos...

West Indian whistling-duck fact file

West Indian whistling-duck description

GenusDendrocygna (1)

The West Indian whistling-duck is a large, upright, long-necked duck. Adults are deep brown in colour, with black-and-white markings on the flanks, a whitish abdomen and black bill (2). This species can also be identified by its shrill 'chiriria' whistle (5).

Also known as
Black-billed wood-duck, Cuban tree-duck.
Pato Silbón de Cuba, Suirirí Yaguaza.
Length: 48-56 cm (2)

West Indian whistling-duck biology

The West Indian whistling-duck is considered a non-migratory bird and is active at night and at dusk and dawn. By day, single birds, pairs or flocks with up to 100 individuals come together to roost and occasionally feed in mangroves and swampy areas. At dusk they fly to other areas to feed in small flocks and return to their roost-sites just before dawn (2).

Nests are made between palm fronds, in clumps of bromeliads, on branches or in tree-cavities, though in Antigua they are built by scraping a shallow ditch in the ground and lining it with leaves (5). Pairs breed throughout the year, but there are peaks in the summer months (2).


West Indian whistling-duck range

As the name suggests this bird is found in the West Indies. Historically, this bird occurred throughout the Bahamas, Turks, Caicos Islands, Cuba, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, and Guadeloupe. At present, breeding populations are known to exist in the Bahamas (at least 1,500 birds), Turks and Caicos, Cuba (possibly more than 10,000 with at least 6,000 in the east), Cayman (1,000 and increasing), Jamaica (500 and declining), Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico (100 and declining), Antigua (400) and Barbuda (possibly 2,000) (2).


West Indian whistling-duck habitat

Inhabits mangrove and swamp areas, brackish ponds, wetlands and tidal flats (5).


West Indian whistling-duck status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU B1+2abcde) on the IUCN Red List 2003 (1), listed on Appendix II of CITES (3), and on Appendix II of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) (4).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


West Indian whistling-duck threats

This large duck is threatened by poorly regulated and excessive hunting for food, eggs and sport (2). It depends on wetland habitats for food sources, protection and breeding, and so has suffered serious population losses following the rapid development of coastal areas in the Caribbean for development and agriculture (5). Of the remaining wetland habitats, 50% are severely degraded due the removal of mangroves and swamp-forest, pollution (especially over-use of pesticides) and natural catastrophes such as droughts and hurricanes (2). The populations of the West Indian whistling-duck are now small and fragmented (2).


West Indian whistling-duck conservation

The listing of this species on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) legally protects it throughout much of its range (3) (4). However, law enforcement is inadequate. To improve conservation measures, in 1997 The West Indian Whistling-duck Working Group was set up. At present this vulnerable duck does exist in several protected areas, but it is thought that suitable habitat for it is insufficient (2). Conservation aims are now focussing on conducting extensive population and habitat surveys, monitoring current populations, enforcing better protection and increasing public awareness of this species’ fragile status (5).

To learn more about a Whitley Award-winning conservation project for this species, click here.
View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For more information on the West Indian whistling-duck see:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:



Slightly salty water.


  1. IUCN Redlist 2003 (January 2004)
  2. Birdlife International (2000) Threatened birds of the World. Lynx Edicions and Birdlife International. Barcelona and Cambridge.
  3. CITES (February 2004)
  4. Convention on Migratory Species (February 2004)
  5. BirdLife International 2003 BirdLife's Online World Bird Database: the site for bird conservation. Version 2.0. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International (accessed 17/2/2004). Available at:

Image credit

West Indian whistling-ducks  
West Indian whistling-ducks

© William Osborn / naturepl.com

Nature Picture Library
5a Great George Street
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 117 911 4675
Fax: +44 (0) 117 911 4699


Link to this photo

ARKive species - West Indian whistling-duck (Dendrocygna arborea) Embed this ARKive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to ARKive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about



MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

This species is featured in:

This species is found in the North Atlantic islands

This species is featured in:

This species is affected by global climate change. To learn about climate change and the species that are affected, visit our climate change pages.

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!