The species does not routinely inhabit the Lehigh Valley or, for that matter, anywhere in the United States except Florida, Louisiana, the Texas Gulf Coast and occasionally Arizona.
The ducks make year-round homes in Brazil, the Guianas, Venezuela, Colombia, and the eastern divide of Central America. They also are common in Mexico, either in the Yucatan Peninsula or along the Pacific Coast.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology says the bird is expanding northward beyond its usual range, but no one expected to see one in Walnutport!
Cornell describes the Black-bellied Whistling-Duck as "a boisterous duck with a brilliant pink bill and an unusual long-legged silhouette." The spectacular appearance comes with a noisy, sociable call that includes a good deal of whistling. It's only one of two whistling-duck species native to North America.
Medium-sized for a waterfowl, the Black-bellied Whistling-Duck has a pale gray head with a deep brown cap. Its black belly and tail are striking, and in sharp contrast to the rich chestnut brown of the back of the body and neck. The flank is striped in white, which is especially noticeable in flight. Adult males and females look alike.
The gregarious birds form large flocks to feed on waste grain in farm fields, particularly rice fields. The often feed on underwater vegetation. Their diet also includes crustaceans, other arthropods and aquatic invertebrates. They feed at any time, but particularly at night.
Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks readily adapt to human surroundings including city parks, golf courses and shallow ponds. They'll even use nesting boxes when tree cavities are unavailable. Their willingness to mingle in human-made habitats is promoting their spread northward.
The sighting of a Black-bellied Whistling-Duck is among several species reported to Dave DeReamus, of the Eastern PA Birdline, during the week ended October 8. The Eastern PA Birdline is sponsored by the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society.
Other locations and sightings include:
Bushkill Township, Northampton County
Philadelphia Vireo, 1 on October 3.
Jacobsburg State Park, Northampton County
Connecticut Warbler, 1 on October 2.
Mississippi Kite, 2 on October 4.
Lake Catasauqua, Lehigh County
Philadelphia Vireo, 1 on October 4.
Walnutport, Lehigh County
(near the footbridge along Canal Street)
Black-bellied Whistling Duck, 1 to at least October 7. Origin is in question.
Little Gap, Carbon County
Northern Goshawk, 1 on October 3 (fly-by).
Bake Oven Knob, Lehigh County
Bald Eagle, 4 on October 3.
Sharp-shinned Hawk, 144 on October 3.
Northern Goshawk, 1 on October 3.
Merlin, 3 on October 3.
Trexler Park, Lehigh County
Marsh Wren, 1 on October 3.
Connecticut Warbler, 1 on October 3 and October 5.
Green Lane Reservoir, Montgomery County
(at the Church Road area)
Peregrine Falcon, 1 on September 30.
Sanderling, 1 on September 30.
White-Rumped Sandpiper, 1 on October 3.
Laughing Gull, 1 on September 30.
(at the Walt Road area)
Merlin, 1 on October 2.
Laughing Gull, 1 on October 2.
Black Tern, 1 on October 2.
Red-breasted Nuthatches continue to be reported from several sites in the past week.
To report a bird sighting to Dave DeReamus, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word "Birdline" in the subject heading.