110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Lynn Bowen
posted Sep 22, 2013 - 1:15:39pm
I saw a white-faced whistling duck at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. His natural home is in Africa and South America, but, at the zoo, the duck is thoroughly pampered and content.
A drake (male) white-faced whistling duck is about 15 inches long and weighs just over a pound, but a hen is larger, weighing just under 2 pounds and measuring 19 inches long.
These ducks call and communicate with high pitches of a three-note whistle that sounds like "whee-whee-whee" and not a quack!
The duck's head and crown are black, but his cheeks and forehead are a beautiful distinctive ivory-white. His wings are broad, making him a good but not swift flier. His bill is bluish-gray, and so are his rather long legs, which have webbed toes on his feet.
Males have a black and chestnut plumage, but the gals are a paler version. They need to be inconspicuous and blend in with the scenery so predators won't find them, especially when they're on nests.
White-faced whistling ducks are quite social, foraging at night mainly in flocks of more than 1,000 in wetlands in open areas. In the daytime, they rest and preen, making their feathers straight and clean. At night, they dive, wade and swim for their diet of grasses, aquatic seeds, rice, mollusks and insects.
At breeding time, a drake and his mate scratch a dent in some dense vegetation, making a "scrape nest." The Mrs. lays four to 13 eggs, which both male and female incubate for about 26 days. When the fuzzy chicks hatch, they are not helpless and can get some of their own food. However, the mother and father stay close by to protect and feed the chicks.
After breeding, white-faced whistling ducks undergo a molt, making them flightless for 18-25 days. During that time, they stay under cover, so as to be safe.
If life is kind, a white-faced whistling duck will live to be 12 years old. Visit the one at Lowry Park Zoo, and perhaps he'll whistle for you!
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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