Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck - Dendrocygna autumnalis
ANATIDAE Members:
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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 two decades. It was found in the mountains for the first time in 2013, and found for the first time in the Piedmont in 2014. Breeding was first documented in summer 2019. It is a species of fresh water ponds and impoundments with much marsh vegetation, but it also can be found in wet fields. Oddly, most of the state records are from tiny or otherwise man-made bodies of water, including ponds in residential areas; few records are from impoundments at wildlife refuges or at natural lakes. 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, though the origin of the several state reports is uncertain. Originally, reports had to be reviewed for provenance, as there are a few waterfowl dealers in the state; but with so many records a year pouring in, the NC BRC is no longer reviewing records.
Breeding Status Breeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Now a rare to occasionally uncommon but strongly increasing visitor to the southern coastal areas and Tidewater region; very rare elsewhere along and near the northern coast, as well as farther inland; casual breeder. Found breeding in summer 2019, with a suggestion of breeding in 2020; conclusive breeding was seen near Middletown (Hyde) with a pair of adults with three chicks on 29 Jul 2021. More records in May and Jun than in other months. 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 inland records for the region are six at Lake Rim (Cumberland) on 18 May 2018; and five in Hoke on 19-20 Jun 2019. As of 2021, records are now far too numerous to list them. Most significantly, breeding was documented in Pamlico, where two chicks were found in an abandoned tree-cavity nest in Arapahoe and given to a wildlife rehabilitator in late summer 2019. Peak counts: 28, in Hertford (Perquimans), 15 Jun 2021; 24, Wilmington (New Hanover), 13 Jul 2019; 20, near Engelhard (Hyde), 8-9 Jun 2020; 12, Tyrrell, 1 Jul 2013; 12, Oriental (Pamlico), 8 May 2017; 11, Beaufort, mid-May 2006.
Piedmont Very rare but increasing; about 13 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. Seven were at Salem Lake (Forsyth) on 14 Apr 2019; 15 were at Archie Elledge WTP (Forsyth) on 13 May 2019; and 10 were at Madison (Rockingham), 19 Jun 2020. There were three additional records in spring 2020, and one in fall 2020; several more records came in 2021. Peak counts: 15, Archie Elledge WTP (Forsyth), 13 May 2019; 12, Lookout Shoals Lake (Catawba), 26 Apr 2020.
Mountains Very rare but increasing; about 7 records as of 2021. 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; two were seen at Biltmore Estate (Buncombe) on 16-17 May 2019; 18 were at Lake Junaluska (Haywood) on 11 Jun 2019; and one was at Ecusta Pond (Transylvania), on 19 May 2020. Peak counts: 18, Lake Junaluska, 11 Jun 2019; 12, Super Sod farm along NC 191 in Henderson, 12 Jun 2013.
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 a number of such reports. However, most records occur at bodies of water where no one would have expected them to show up, so the best chance to see it is to check out a report as soon as you can.
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Attribution LeGrand[2021-11-07], LeGrand[2021-08-30], LeGrand[2021-03-05]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.
NC Breeding Season Map
Map depicts assumed breeding season abundance for the species.