Plumed Whistling-Duck

Did you know?

The whistling-ducks are monomorphic (sexes the same colour) but males tend to be slightly larger, with longer plumes.

Loud sibilant whistle
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
Minimum Size: 
Maximum Size: 
Average size: 
Average weight: 
1 000g
Breeding season: 
Variable, usually during tropical Wet Season.
Clutch Size: 
8 to 14
30 days
Conservation Status
Basic Information
Scientific Name: 
Featured bird groups: 
Atlas Number: 
What does it look like?

The Plumed Whistling-Duck is one of two whistling or tree ducks found in Australia. It is a tall, long necked duck, with very prominent long lanceolate off-white plumes edged in black along the flanks. The face and foreneck are light, the crown and hind neck are pale brown and the brown feathers of the upper back are edged buff. The breast is pale chestnut, finely barred in black. The bill is mottled pink and grey and the legs and feet are pink. It is also known as Grass Whistle Duck, Eyton's Plumed, Red-legged or Whistling Tree-duck, Grass, Grey or Red-legged Whistler, and the Monkey Duck.

Similar species: 

The related Wandering Whistling-DuckDendocygna arcuata, is similar to the Plumed Whistling-Duck, though it has darker body plumage and shorter flank plumes. Wandering Whistling-Ducks are more often found on water.

Where does it live?

The Plumed Whistling-Duck is mainly found in the northern and eastern tropics of Australia, it also extends southwards to New South Wales in the east but does not come far south of the Kimberleys in the west.


During the day the Plumed Whistling-Duck congregates in large numbers with other waterfowl, on the margins of lagoons, swamps and mangrove creeks, for preening and sleeping. At night they fly out, often quite long distances, to feed on grasslands.

Seasonal movements: 

In the breeding season the Plumed Whistling-Duck leaves the water and nests on the grassy plains.

What does it do?

Plumed Whistling-Ducks graze on tropical grasses. They pluck grass (like a goose) and also take food from the water by dabbling from the surface.


Breeding for the Plumed Whistling-Duck begins in the tropical Wet Season. The nest is a scrape in the ground, sparsely lined with grass, usually under shelter of a bush or other vegetation. The Plumed Whistling-Duck is monogamous, and pair-bonds are probably life-long. Both sexes share the duties of incubation, with the changeover taking place in the evening, and brood the young.

Living with us

Although the Plumed Whistling-Duck is a bird of the tropical grasslands, it has benefitted from pastoral practices which provide dams for water and pasture on which to graze.

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