Plumed Whistling Duck

Plumed Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna eytoni) is a distinctively elegant duck species endemic to Australia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. This medium-sized duck is characterized by the extremely long flank feathering from which its common name is derived and whistling vocalizations, contributing to its unique presence within wetland ecosystems.

Adult Plumed Whistling Ducks exhibit a striking appearance with a predominantly caramel-brown plumage. The distinguishing feature is the elongated, upward-curving plumes on their flanks, providing a distinctive visual marker. The face is adorned with a black eyestripe, and the underparts are lighter in color. Their pink bills are heavily mottled. Unlike other ducks, they lack the typical quacking sounds and are known for their soft, melodious whistling calls.

Plumed Whistling Duck
Extremely long flank feathers are where plumed whistling ducks earn their namesake.
Plumed Whistling Duck mandible
The plumbed whistling duck mandible is pink with heavy mottling.

Plumed whistling ducks favor a variety of wetland habitats, including freshwater lakes, swamps, and marshes. Their range extends across northern and eastern Australia, as well as parts of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. The Plumed Whistling Duck’s presence is particularly notable during the wet season when these water bodies provide abundant food resources.

Plumed Whistling Ducks, are colloquially referred to as “grass whistlers,”  are primarily herbivores, feeding on aquatic plants, seeds, and insects. Their feeding behavior involves dabbling and grazing on the water’s surface, utilizing their specialized bill to filter food from the water. It’s not uncommon in Northern Territory, Australia, to see them landing into belt-high grass to feed.

Hunted in Northern Territory, Australia, plumed whistling ducks are usually hunted by pass shooting between feeding and roosting areas. They are delicious as tablefare.