Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck - Dendrocygna autumnalis
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General Comments The Black-bellied Whistling-Duck is a recent stray to coastal and tidewater areas, with the only accepted records since 2004; the number of records has greatly increased over the past 10 years. It was found in the mountains for the first time in 2013, and found for the first time in the Piedmont in 2014. It is a species of fresh water ponds and impoundments with much marsh vegetation, but it also can be found in wet fields. This species has been undergoing an expansion of its native population in southern Texas since the 1990s, and there are many records of strays across the continent. In addition, released populations are expanding in coastal South Carolina over this period, and this South Carolina population is considered by that state to be an established, reproducing population. Thus, records for North Carolina would be expected to increase in the 2000s, though the origin of the several state reports is uncertain. Also, there are one to several waterfowl dealers in the state who maintain Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, and thus reports need to be scrutinized carefully for "non-countable" escapes. However, since around 2014, records have been increasing so much -- not only in NC but in the eastern US -- that scrutiny of the provenance of each has become a moot point.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Very rare to now (2018) rare visitor to the southern coastal areas and Tidewater region; very rare elsewhere along and near the northern coast. Greatly increasing, with more records in May and Jun than in other months. Surprisingly, no records farther inland in the province, though this is bound to change in the next few years. A flock of five birds was seen in a wet field in Tyrrell, 17 May 2004* [Chat 68:114-115 link]; another flock, of 11 birds, was seen (and photographed) in a field in Beaufort for several days in mid-May 2006* [Chat 70:93-94 link]; and one at a retention pond in northeastern New Hanover, 26 May - 6 Jun 2013* [Chat 77:80 link] was well photographed and was the first of the species that remained long enough to be seen by many observers. One on a private impoundment on the North River (Carteret) was thought to have been of wild origin [Chat 76:19 link]. There were several more recent reports in 2012-2013, such as 2 at Mattamuskeet NWR, 19 Jun 2012 [Chat 76:128 link], and one in Carteret on 15 Dec 2013 [Chat 78:57 link]. A flock of 12 was seen on a lawn by the Albemarle Sound in Bulls Bay, Tyrrell, on 1 Jul 2013 [Chat 77:145 link]. In summer 2014, the species was seen in Carteret, New Hanover, and Hyde, though the highest count was just two birds. At least seven or eight additional records were made in spring and summer 2015 near the coast, including in Dare. A handful of additional records were made near the coast in 2016, and the same can be said for 2017. Apparently the only far inaldn record for th eregion is six at Lake Rim (Cumberland) on 18 May 2018. Peak counts: 12, Tyrrell, 1 Jul 2013; 12, Oriental (Pamlico), 8 May 2017; 11, Beaufort, mid-May 2006.
Piedmont Surprisingly, only four known records, though records should increase greatly over the next decade. Three were photographed on a pond in Indian Trail (Union) on 18 Jun 2014*; the birds lingered for a few additional days [Chat 79:13 link]. One was seen at ponds in Elon (Alamance) on 16-22 Apr 2017. Five were seen in Union on 25 Apr 2018, and two were seen somewhat nearby at McAlpine Creek Park (Mecklenburg) on 4 May 2018.
Mountains Four records; casual but increasing. A flock of 12 was seen and photographed at the Super Sod farm along NC 191 in Henderson on 12 Jun 2013* [Chat 77:145 link]; five were photographed at Flat Rock (Henderson) on 13 Jun 2014; and seven were at a lake in Avery on 27 May 2015* [Chat 80:13-14 link]. Six were seen in Mills River (Henderson) on 31 May 2018.
Finding Tips The species is most likely to show up in the Twin Lakes area of Brunswick, based on closest proximity to the South Carolina population. Other ponds in the Brunswick - New Hanover area are also places that the species could next appear, and there are several such reports.
* to **
Attribution LeGrand[2018-11-08], LeGrand[2018-02-01], LeGrand[2017-12-07]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.