The Whistlers of Brazos Bend

 

Black-bellied whistling ducks (Dendrocygna autumnalis) are described by the Cornell birding site as ‘boisterous,’ and a better word couldn’t be chosen. Whether in flight or calling to one another from the treetops, their loud, piercing whistle is unmistakable, and their tendency to form large groups only increases the racket.

Although they will nest on the ground, their preference for nesting in tree cavities and perching on open branches makes them relatively easy to spot. Their brightly colored bills often can be seen even when the birds are hidden away in reeds or grasses.

At Brazos Bend, the few dead and dying tree trees allowed to stand at the edge of Elm Lake provided a resting spot for these birds after a night of foraging among the abundant lotuses, duckweed, and smartweed.

Seen at close range, these large, colorful ducks are among my favorites: their appearance seems as bold and brash as their behavior. Their breeding range extends somewhat to the north, but they can be found throughout the year in coastal Texas: a fact that pleases me greatly.

 

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