by Paul Woodcock
This new monthly article will highlight some species of animal or plant life which we see in our paddling adventures, in order to increase our knowledge about nature and the environment we see around us. Paul has stepped forward to kick-off this idea with the very first article, and exactly the kind I was looking for! Thanks, Paul.
Black-bellied Whistling Ducks: Dendrocygna autumnalis
In July, 2012 I paddled Armond Bayou alone. When you paddle solo you usually see a lot more wildlife and this trip was no exception. You can read the trip report in the August 2012 Houston Canoe Club Newsletter. I was able to get close-up pictures of a pair of the most beautiful birds I have ever seen. I posted their picture on the HCC Forum and Cindy Bartos informed me they were black bellied whistling ducks. When I was researching for this article I found out they were also called the black bellied whistling wood duck. They usually travel in flocks and feed at night in large agriculture fields. They also hang out at golf courses and that is probably why I got to see them as there was a golf course just upstream on Horse Pen Bayou where I was paddling.
They mate for life and are monogamous They nest in tree cavities and on the ground in marshy areas. They will also use manmade wood nest boxes. A pair will start reproducing in the first year of their life and lay about a dozen eggs. Both male and female incubate the eggs, and if one is not able to sit on the eggs the nest will be abandoned.
When I first saw them I thought the were geese, not ducks. Unlike geese, they fly in an unorganized fashion. They have a large expanse of white on their wings, and like geese they have adapted to rice fields for feeding. Despite farmers planting less rice and the drought, their numbers are increasing in this area. These ducks really do have a whistle for their call. Under the Migratory Bird Act there is the typical six-bird a day limit on hunting.
You can find these ducks at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Goose Island State Park, Breckenridge Park, Brazos Bend State Park, Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge and Laguna Atacosta National Wildlife Refuge in the lower Rio Grande valley.
There is a large population in Mexico and I have seen where some hunters call them the Mexican tree duck. Also there is an isolated group in Pennsylvania.
In 20 years of paddling, this is the only time I have seen these lovely birds and I feel fortunate to be able to include them in my pictures of wildlife.
|The author, Paul Woodcock