Black-bellied whistling ducks at the water bowl: Can you count the ducklings? 

We often see – and hear – black-belled whistling ducks flying overhead at dawn and dusk, usually in flocks of 10 or 20. Their rhythmic, whistling call is one of our favorite Texas bird sounds. However, we don’t often see them in our backyard.

Dan was deleting “junk” clips from one of our DVR PCs when he found these videos – they had been recorded the day before. I was out cleaning the water bowls and heard him yelling in astonishment. First the two parent ducks waddle into the frame, and then a duckling, and another, and another – a seemingly never-ending snake of tiny pale yellow and black balls of down.

The ducklings stayed in strict one-after-the-other formation. They followed their parents single file, in a long line, and they stayed in that line. If a parent stopped, the ducklings all stopped, keeping their place in line.

We think of ducks as water birds, and they are, but this family was a long way from anything wet. The creek was dry and they crossed from one side of our 5-acre (2 hectare) property to the other, west to east, following the walking trails that all the other critters use. The little ones, of course, were far too young to fly – probably only a day or two old.

We suspect the parents were taking everyone to a drainage pond about 10 minutes’ walk away (10 minutes for a human; for a duckling, it seems unimaginably far). Whistling ducks often hang out in the pond, but reaching it from our place entails crossing a busy 6-lane street and Dan and I shuddered to think of how difficult that would have been for ducks and ducklings. We checked the street later and there was no sign of carnage, so we are hoping the ducks’ journey ended happily and that the world is now 18 black-bellied whistling ducks richer than it was a few days ago.

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2 Comments

  1. I never knew black-bellied whistling ducks even existed! With human traffic and foxes around, it’s a miracle if at least some of them will survive till they can fly.
    Your park is twice the size of mine. But you have ten times as many variety of animals and birds. I also put out daily lots of different food and clean water. I think the difference is that all my neighbors use professional gardening companies to mow the loans, trim the hedges, etc. one can hear machines running all day, discouraging the wildlife. And most of my neighbors have cats and dogs. My foxes can manage the cats, but I guess they must avoid the properties with dogs.

    1. Dan used to have dogs and never saw wildlife, but when his final dog left 12 years ago, the animals all slowly appeared. It was quite miraculous. I arrived around then, and I remember our excitement at seeing deer and foxes for the first time. Almost all of our neighbors have dogs, and that probably encourages the animals to hang out here – plus, they know (and have known for more than a decade) that they will always, always find fresh water here – a big deal during the punishingly hot, dry summers. We live in the city suburbs, and we’re surrounded by houses and cars and machinery, but the species we see seem to be quite tolerant – they’ve adapted to urban living to some degree.

      The ducks and ducklings were just magical. I was outside when Dan found the video clip and I’ve never heard him yell so loudly. It was great! We hope that they’ve survived.

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