Many birders travel to Texas to glimpse the black-bellied whistling duck, a year-round resident of the lower Texas Gulf Coast and other portions of the state. The whistling duck is also found in Mexico, Central and South America and occasionally in Arizona, California and Louisiana, as well.
Known for its high-pitched whistling call, the whistling duck’s long legs and neck are reminiscent of a goose. Males and females are identical in appearance, body rust-brown with a black belly and tail. The face is gray, with a white ring around the eye, and a bright red bill and legs. In flight, the bird’s white wing-patch is visible as a stripe.
Once called the black-bellied tree duck for its habit of nesting in tree cavities, the whistling duck also nests on the ground in marshy areas. Good whistling duck observation opportunities exist, particularly during the summer months, at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Goose Island State Park and Brackenridge Park. The national birding hotspots of Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge and Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, both located in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, are also prime observation locations.