Spotted whistling-duck -- 细斑树鸭 (Dendrocygna guttata)

Drake spotted whistling-duck on water
IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern LEAST

Top facts

  • The spotted whistling-duck is named for the prominent white spots on its neck, breast and flanks, as well as for its whistling calls.
  • The wings of the spotted whistling-duck make a distinctive whirring sound when the bird is in flight.
  • Male and female spotted whistling-ducks are similar in appearance, but juveniles are duller and less spotted than the adults.
  • The spotted whistling-duck often nests in hollow tree trunks.
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Spotted whistling-duck fact file

Spotted whistling-duck description

GenusDendrocygna (1)

The spotted whistling-duck (Dendrocygna guttata) is an easily recognisable bird which is named for the white spots that decorate its neck, breast and flanks, as well as for the low whistling calls that it uses to communicate (2) (3) (4). This species is also notable for the distinctive whirring noise that its wings generate when it is in flight (3) (5). It is thought that this unique flight sound is due to the indented nature of the spotted whistling-duck’s outermost wing feathers (6).

There is little difference in size or appearance between male and female spotted whistling-ducks. With the exception of the characteristic white spots, both sexes are predominantly brown, with a pale grey throat and cheeks and a whitish belly (2) (3) (4) (5). The feathers on the upperparts are dark brown with lighter reddish-brown edges (2) (3) (5). Juvenile spotted whistling-ducks appear very similar to the adult birds, if slightly duller in colour and with reduced spotting on the breast, which appears slightly white-streaked instead (2) (3).

The adult spotted whistling-duck has a dark grey beak which is mottled with pink (2) (3) (5). The legs and feet of this species are also dark grey, with a pinkish-red tinge (2) (3), and its eyes are dark brown (3) (5).

Also known as
spotted tree duck, spotted tree-duck, spotted whistling duck.
Length: 43 - 50 cm (2) (3)
Wingspan: 85 - 95 cm (2)
c. 800 g (3)

Spotted whistling-duck biology

The spotted whistling-duck usually occurs in pairs or small groups, often with other duck species (3) (4) (5), although it will frequently roost in larger numbers in the tops of tall trees (3). This species moves to and from its roosting sites at dusk and dawn (3).

Little information is available on the feeding behaviour of the spotted whistling-duck, but it is thought to graze on short grass and to dabble for food in water (4). Like other whistling-ducks, the spotted whistling-duck is quite long-legged and is at home both in the water and walking on dry land (3).

The timing of the spotted whistling-duck’s breeding season appears to vary, but it is thought to usually begin at the start of the wet season, around September onwards. The spotted whistling-duck often chooses to nest in hollow tree trunks, and like other whistling-ducks it is likely to pair for life. However, little else is known about the breeding behaviour of this species (3).


Spotted whistling-duck range

The spotted whistling-duck is native to parts of Southeast Asia, including New Guinea, the Philippines and Indonesia. There is also a population in Queensland, Australia (2) (3) (7).

The spotted whistling-duck appears to be a sedentary, non-migratory bird (2) (5).


Spotted whistling-duck habitat

This species can be found around shallow lakes, marshes and other freshwater habitats (2) (3) (4) (5), often showing a preference for vegetated margins. The spotted whistling-duck can often be seen perching upon the branches of waterside trees (3) (4).


Spotted whistling-duck status

The spotted whistling-duck is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Spotted whistling-duck threats

The spotted whistling-duck has a large range and is considered to have a stable population of between 10,000 and 25,000 individuals (7). However, although not generally considered to be threatened, this species may potentially be affected by agricultural intensification on some islands (3).


Spotted whistling-duck conservation

The spotted whistling-duck has not yet been the target of any known conservation measures.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

Find out more about the spotted whistling-duck and its conservation:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

This species information was authored as part of the Arkive and Universities Scheme.


  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2012)
  2. Ogilvie, M.A. and Young, S. (2002) Wildfowl of the World. New Holland Publishers, London.
  3. Madge, S. and Burn, H. (2010) Wildfowl. Christopher Helm Publishers, London.
  4. Dutson, G. (2011) Birds of Melanesia: Bismarcks, Solomons, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. Christopher Helm, London.
  5. Kennedy, R.S., Gonzales, P.C., Dickinson, E.C., Miranda Jr, H.C. and Fisher, T.H. (2000) A Guide to the Birds of the Philippines. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  6. Johnsgard, P.A. (1965) Handbook of Waterfowl Behavior: Tribe Dendrocygnini (Whistling Ducks). Comstock Publishing Associates, Ithaca.
  7. BirdLife International - Spotted whistling-duck (July, 2013)

Image credit

Drake spotted whistling-duck on water  
Drake spotted whistling-duck on water

© John Watkins /

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